have two lead singers, one who looks like Little Lulu and another
who tries to look funny-weird instead of funny-ha-ha. Who knows?
They'll probably do an album and be around forever. However, when
I learned to draw, tracing was cheating."
Z, Slash magazine, June 1979
high-strung music is laced with anger and hostility. It is expertly
executed with precise calculation. On stage, singer Michael Ely
displays his true showmanship as he assumes authoritarian control
of the front lines while Spider Taylor jams away at his guitar like
an axeman extraordinaire. Drummer George Hurly beats the living
life out of his skins and Jim Kaiser puts in his two cents worth
by tenaciously strumming away on bass."
Hitching Post, April 29, 1980
a period of original punk bands getting bigger or breaking up or
left in holding patterns, it now seems that L.A. is creating a new
generation of post-punk modern music groups. Possibly spurred on
by the success of Wall Of Voodoo, or hoping to ride on the
crest of New Romantic faddism, there are definitely more original
bands happening around town. Some names to watch for: Interpol,
Kommunity FK, Red Wedding, Aphotic Culture.... whether I like
these bands or not, I respect them for having the courage to find
their own direction instead of being apes or sheep. "
L.A. Weekly, June 1981
Dog, October, 1981. Black walls, steel plating along the bar and
stage, dining-room chairs upholstered in leopard skin. I'm talking
with a petit-guignol punkette named Kristina. Eyes saucered like
a lemur's in heat, angular to the point of anorexia, Ritt Plum Dye
#12 dandelion-going-to-seed 'do like a nimbus around her Ensor-expressive
face, she looks like the prima screema in some pop-corn schlock
shock-o-rama, Attack of the Zombie Nymphettes, say, or something
equally bizarre. Someone catches her attention. "Oh, Miiiichaeeellll,"
she banshees, the syllables sliding off her miniature oil slick
of a voice. "Hey," she urges, "just look at that guy move!" The
l'homme fatale in question is one Michael Ely, lead singer for the
Romantidelic quartet Red Wedding. Michael's backside is currently
twitching its uppity way toward the Dog's rear exit. "See that,"
says Kristina. "That's the walk of a star!" "Don't you mean Superstar?"
I wonder, invoking the famous Warhol label. Kristina laughs. "Yeah,
the atmosphere's like that, like the Factory, isn't it? All these
intense creative types coming out from under the rocks and asking
us to pay attention."
L.A. Reader, October 1981
comes across as an imaginative, intelligent Rimbaud-goes-techno
band, taking influences from the British new romantic sense of the
fatale, Eno's mastery of rhythm and technique, and a gutsy
rock 'n' roll energy that steers the band clear of pretentiousness.
The songs are tightly constructed with abrupt changes of tempo and
strong dramatic tensions. New drummer Ford has given the band a
needed rhythmic cutting edge, integrating nicely with the dense
textures of Marc O's keyboards and Tagliavia's bass. Taylor's guitar
is the high point, spinning back and forth between rhythm and melodic
lead, counterpointing Ely's intoned vocals and giving the material
its hooks. The band is more than the simple sum of it's parts and
the overall blend has character and originality. Ely is the center
of attention, a lanky, nervous type playing the doomed romantic.
Deliberately affected, his ingrained ennui is interesting for a
couple of songs, but becomes a little tiresome, particularly as
he is so detached from the audience. More emotional involvement
rather than icy aloofness with the material would draw the spectator
into the music. Given the brevity of their set, Red Wedding was
very impressive, both in terms of material and arrangements."
Connection, April 1982
"Twenty years after the fact, I still remember the first time I saw Red
Wedding. It was at Madame Wong's East and I had gotten
one of many free tickets with which clubs used to paper the places
back then. I was 20, single and passionate about what was known
then as the underground music scene ( I certainly had no use for
the popular bands of the day such as Journey or the
The moment Red Wedding
began playing, I was transfixed. The style, the sound, the physical
beauty of these boy-men hit me hard. Ultimately it was the music,
though, that kept me in my seat, eyes riveted. I was floored by
the echoes of Roxy Music and Bowie that had been
fashioned into something new, yet oddly familiar. The Edwardian
dress reminiscent of my childhood idol, Mick Jagger, circa
1971, the dramatic makeup, the lanky, charismatic singer, and
a guitarist whose technical skill (he's still up there with Jeff
Beck and Mick Taylor in my book) was matched note for
note with a Hendrix-like passion, completed the picture.
I was in love. The
lyrics appealed to my love of imagery and poetry and mystery.
Though I couldn't make them all out at the time, I heard shards
and lines and phrases that were evocative of Bryan Ferry and
poets Rimbaud and Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens.
Those writers' poems, along with Ferry's lyrics, were highly
visual, richly opaque and carried multiple layers of meaning.
That's what I was hearing here, too. And the more I got to know
the lyrics intimately, the more I knew I was accurate in making
The keyboard player
also caught my eye; he had one of those sculpted faces with high
cheekbones, alabaster skin and, again, that androgynous quality
I'd always admired. Was he gay? If I thought about it at all,
which I doubt, it only made him that much more appealing. (Yes,
I was one of THOSE girls - I despise the term "fag hag," as I
find it insulting to all concerned, but I'd always had many gay
men as friends.)
I approached the bass
player, probably the most approachable of the bunch as he was
young and small and vulnerable. Do you have a manager? Do you
need one? I had spent two years in the music business and had
always followed my gut. My desire to manage the band was simple:
I believed in these guys, I was passionate about the music and
I had overwhelming urge to help these guys "make it". Eventually,
this led to a meeting with the band and an agreement that we would
give it a try. They were cautious, at first, waiting to see if
I was reliable, if they could trust a 20-year-old with their careers,
yet once I was in, I was in.
one of my best friends and Marc O became my obsession.
The first gig at which I was officially their manager was at the
Brave Dog sometime during the mid-summer. That first night,
Marc O and I "made out" in my car. He was enraptured by
my total admiration and perhaps a bit curious. (That was the extent
of our actual romance, the rest was conducted in my head.) I was
in love....I thought, something which became increasingly painful
and caused the dynamics between Marc, Michael (Marc's best
friend) and I to become infinitely complex.
I now see it as a fantasy
love, an obsession with the unobtainable and self-destructive
for me. Despite that, there was something intense between Marc
and me for as long as we were friends. He did have an attraction
to me in some strange inexplicable way - his nickname for me was
Glamour Puss and he loved to advise me on clothing
and makeup. I was his mannequin at times and at others he was
Narcissus staring into the pond of my adoration while I reflected
back to him his captivation with himself.
My relationship with
Michael was quite different. We were very close; we could see
each other every day and still spend an additional hour on the
phone talking about everything from religion, music and politics
to how much we hated the sun and hot weather ( I find it amusing
that Michael now lives near Tucson!) I also shared my inner struggles
with depression and my loneliness with Michael and he was
always there for me.
Most people saw me
as upbeat, outgoing, self-confident and unafraid. Michael was
one of the few who saw my vulnerable side and loved me still.
At the same time Michael was my confidante, in my role
as manager, I was his rock. Michael shared his panic and
fear about each upcoming performance with me, and I would reassure
him night after night, before and after each gig. He worried about
his performance, his voice, the band and the material. The fears
were unjustified, I knew, but being insecure myself, I understood
his feelings and could intuitively offer him what he needed. I
felt endlessly patient with Michael and believe he knew
I loved him unconditionally and believed in the band completely.
In a way, I relished
my role as the one he could rely on for reassurance for two reasons:
First and foremost, I felt this was my contribution to the band's
actual performance; before each show everyone knew that Michael
needed me and if I wasn't already backstage, I was summoned (Get
Claudia! Michael's freaking out! was a familiar refrain);
second, perhaps selfishly, I loved being needed. It gave me a
sense of fulfillment.
I think it's no surprise
to Michael and Spider that today I am a professional
psychotherapist. I didn't know I would end up here, but it's where
life led me. There's far too much to tell than can be contained
here. I did all I could for the band, getting them high profile
gigs, a fair amount of press and a small record deal. I do believe
this: Had it all happened 10 short years later, they'd have been
picked up by a major label. The music business changed drastically
from 1980 to 1990. In 1980, labels were looking for bands that
could become mega-acts, ala The Rolling Stones - they were
looking for hits and chart-toppers and stadium fillers. By 1990,
labels were much more willing to nurture a number of smaller scale
bands on smaller scale tours - witness Ben Harper, Cowboy Junkies,
Mazzy Star - rather than looking for one big band that could
make or break them.
I left the band due
to personal problems - depression and heavy drug and alcohol use
in particular - and it was hard and in many ways devastating;
I remained friends with Michael for some time, but my relationship
with Marc faded. I think he was angry with me and that,
perhaps my obsession with him had "grown tiresome." Tragically,
we were estranged when he died. I still miss him. I didn't think
I could stay sober and remain in the music scene, though I'll
never know if that is true. What I do know is that my association
with Red Wedding was an exceptionally significant time
in my life - I shared my youth and my wildness with the guys and
they shared theirs with me. It was magical. So was the band."
(currently a psychotherapist in Marin County, Northern
early 1982, my lover Stephen and I moved into the apartment next
door to Spider and Michael on Bellevue Avenue in Silverlake. After
a "welcome to the building" joint tossed down to us
by Michael one afternoon from the shadow of the upstairs balcony
(he wouldn't come out into the sunlight) while we sat playing
in backgammon in the backyard, numerous encounters in the hallway,
and cards and gifts left tapped to our door (which displayed Michael's
quick and rich sense of humor), we became fast friends. Not even
their cat, Pumquat (to whom I was deathly allergic, but
always insisted on being in my lap), could stop me from hanging
out with these guys. I was 21, in college, hated the disco-driven
gay scene that prevailed in Los Angeles back then and was awed
by Spider and Michael's gay-led alternative band, Red Wedding.
The first time I saw them perform was at Al's Bar on July
9th, 1982 (Spider's birthday). I saw them numerous times over
the following years at places like Cathay De Grande, the Whiskey,
the Roxy and the first Theoretical at the One Way
bar on Hoover. I was there at the listening party for the
release of their first EP in 1982 (we partied till the sun came
up at Marc O's apartment on Oxford across from Paramount
studios) and at the listening party for the release of their second
EP in 1984 (at the Anti-club on Melrose).
Stephen and I broke
up in 1983 and I moved out of the Bellevue apartment, but it didn't
keep me (along with my friend Karen Schneider the
character featured in the song "Scarecrows")
from hanging out with Red Wedding, holding court at their shows,
and on other evenings going out dancing with Michael, Spider and
Marc to various clubs or to parties given by Jack Marquette,
Jim Van Tyne,
and Jim Yousling.
No matter what the occasion, we would always end up eating Thai
food on Hollywood Boulevard at 4:00 am, while Marc and Karen (both
originally from Baltimore) entertained us with their colorful
After Red Wedding broke
up, I remained friends with Michael and Spider (now Jim). I ended
up living in the Valley and they moved to Long Beach. It was through
them that I kept in touch with Marc O, and, after Marc's lover,Tom,
died in 1990, I moved into Marc's house on New Hampshire in Los
Feliz to become his roommate. Sadly, I was there to witness Marc's
final days before he succumbed to AIDS in January of 1992. He
had changed from the days when I first met him. Always a person
full of energy and a strong lust for life, he was very tired and
angry when he died.
I will occasionally
play one of Red Wedding's records, and I am immediately taken
back to a time that I will always treasure. Those days had their
ups and downs, but it sure was a lot of fun (and thinking back
- seemed so innocent).
(now living in San Francisco and working as a medical
ichael's concept for Red
Wedding was to blend '60s psychedelia with '70s glam rock, creating
a sound that was anything but retro. He wanted to create a band of illusion
in which nothing was what it appeared to be. The songs would all be
love songs, but with a lyrical twist: lush and romantic on the surface,
cynical and decadent underneath. This new "post punk" music would explode
upon the scene and, under the banner "alternative rock," continues to
reverberate into the new millennium.
Red Wedding debuted at the
Brave Dog on Saturday, June 13, 1981. Fans expecting a revamped Hey
Taxi were in for a shock. Gone was the angry and fast-paced power punk,
replaced with mysterious, trance-like electro-glam rock. Gone was Louie
Dufau, replaced with a drum machine. Gone was the punk attire, replaced
with ruffled tuxedo shirts, makeup and earrings. And in the biggest
transformation of all, gone was Michael the hyperactive clown, replaced
with Michael the dark and aloof doomed romantic.
Primarily because of their
glamorous look and exotic apparel, Red Wedding was immediately labeled
New Romantic, a term the band neither embraced nor rejected.
It was only one of many incarnations the band would go through over
the next few years. Also, because all the members of the band were openly
gay, they were labeled a "gay band." Matt Groening, creator of
"The Simpsons"), back then, a struggling writer for the low-rent
L.A. Reader, used this label to dismiss their music in a fairly
derisive manner. The L.A. Weekly, meanwhile, referred to them several
times as "the brides of red rock." Although the band member's sexuality
played a part in their music and in Michael's lyrics, it was not intended
as gimmick. They did not want to make an issue out of their homosexuality,
nor did they want to deny it. It was simply who they were.
Red Wedding performed many
shows at the Brave Dog, sharing the stage with other post-punk bands
and artists such as the Fibonaccis, Interpol, Kommunity FK, Wild
Kingdom (Michael's personal favorite) and Adore
O'Hara. They occasionally played at other small clubs around
town (Madame Wong's, Al's Bar, Cathay De Grand), but they regarded
the Brave Dog, the setting for Andy Warhol's 1982 "pictorial
of punk" for Rolling Stone, as their homebase. Even when the
band was not performing, they could always be seen hanging out at the
Dog, often sharing a late night supper and some laughs with Jack and
Clare at the Atomic Cafe right next door.
During that summer of 1981,
a scene from the movie "I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can" was filmed
inside the Brave Dog. If you look closely behind the actors, you can
see the members of Red Wedding standing on the stage, flagged on each
end by two girls (Belissa and Ann Marie) in red gowns.
This was a kick for all concerned. Also that summer, record producer
Kim Fowley approached the band about managing them. While the
members were flattered, Fowley wanted too much artistic control and
the band turned him down. Instead the band opted for
, a far less seasoned veteran but one more in sync with
the band's vision. Claudia was a young, gifted writer who had worked
as a publicist and club booker in the music scene since the age of 18.
She had done publicity for such diverse acts as Prince (doing
publicity with Bobbi Cowan for his first album, "Dirty Mind,"
on Warner Bros.); John Mayall (Regency Records/MCA);
Fear, then managed by former lead singer of Three Dog Night, Danny
Hutton; and the European pop-techno band Wet Picnic. She
had booked local clubs including the hardcore punk club, The Vex
in East L.A. and the more pop/new wave club The Arena in Culver
City where The Go-Gos played some of their first gigs. She was
smart, aggressive and eager to move Red Wedding into the larger venues.
Claudia quickly became part
of the band gestalt. More than most bands, the members of Red Wedding
were a tight-knit family. They seemingly spent all their time together,
intimately involved in each other's lives on every level. When they
went to clubs or bars, it was usually as a group. They tended not to
socialize with members of other bands, preferring to keep to their own
small circle of friends.
Michael was by far the most
antisocial of the group. He suffered severe panic attacks when out in
public and often drank excessively to mask the fear. Although he loved
the attention of being in a band, it was, at the same time, a curse.
He was petrified when people would approach him, and both Spider and
Claudia went to great lengths to protect him. In large part, his aloof
and often intense onstage theatrics were a device designed to keep people
at a distance. If people viewed him as cold and sinister, they would
leave him alone (he hoped). Most people never saw the real Michael,
who his close friends knew as sweet, funny and fragile.
After the Brave Dog closed
down in November, Red Wedding ventured into larger venues. In early
'82, they changed their unconventional lineup (two guitars, synthesizer
and drum machine) to a more traditional one. Drummer Brian Ford replaced
the drum machine and John switched from guitar to bass. This gave the
band a new energized, full-bodied sound, and after a stunning performance
on New Wave Theater (filmed on March 9th, Michael's birthday),
audiences and critics began to take notice.
In June of 1982, Red Wedding
recorded their first EP entitled "Up and Down the Aisle."
It was a disaster from start to finish, despite the talents of producer
Thom Wilson (who has since achieved great success in
the music business). Recorded on a shoe-string budget in the middle
of the night (literally) in a studio out in the San Fernando Valley,
the band was ill prepared to transfer their live sound onto vinyl, and there
were technical problems with the band's equipment, leaving less than
three hours to record and mix the five songs. Michael's vocals were
recorded in less than 20 minutes, and his idea to leave his vocals completely
raw and without effects did not work on vinyl. However, had it not been
for Thom's quick thinking ideas and studio savvy, things could have
been much worse, and the experience of working with Thom (although brief)
was a joy for the band.
The recordings were signed
over to Bemisbrain Records, an extremely small punk/alternative
label. Within minutes after signing, the band had regrets, but decided
to move forward and learn from the experience.
In July, Red Wedding replaced
drummer Brian Ford with drummer Brian Engel. Ford, who had been
the only heterosexual in the band, was never comfortable with the "gay
thing," and had become increasingly difficult to work with. Engel, also
heterosexual, was more than happy to join the band. His first performance
with Red Wedding was to take place in a gay bar.....
Van Tyne asked Red Wedding to play at the first Theoretical,
a unique musical event. It took place on Sunday afternoon, July
25 at the One Way bar, less than a block from Spider and Michael's
apartment in Silverlake. The stage was built of beer cases and plywood.
For this occasion, most of the band wore leather and Michael, a long
peach-colored negligee. The show was a huge success, assuring there
would be many, many more Theoreticals to follow.
Red Wedding continued to
play at various clubs including The Whiskey, Club Lingerie, The Plant,
The Anti-Club, Madame Wong's West and The Lhasa Club, sharing the
stage with bands such as the Ju Ju Hounds, Outer Circle, Mnemonic
Devices, 45 Grave, Redd Kross and The Bangs (later renamed
The Bangles). Down south in San Diego, Red Wedding played
at the Spirit Club and the Bacchanal Club with such bands
as Killing Joke, X, Nina Hagen, Romeo Void, The Gun Club and
Bow Wow Wow.
In November, Bemisbrain
Records released "Up and Down the Aisle." To the band's
surprise, it was for the most part praised by the reviewers, but many
fans of Red Wedding complained that the record didn't sound anything
like them, and the EP did poorly in sales. It was later released in
Europe on a French label, New Rose, where it faired much better.
In January of 1983, Michael
began to see a psychiatrist to help him overcome his panic disorder
and bouts of severe depression. The psychiatrist told him his fears
and depression were rooted in his homosexuality, and put him on a high
dose of Lithium. Michael mixed the Lithium with street drugs and alcohol,
causing his behavior to become erratic and irrational. While staying
with friends down in San Diego one weekend, he went into convulsions
and had to be held down under a cold shower. After this incident, he
stopped seeing the psychiatrist.
As with most bands, drugs,
sex and rock 'n' roll were a way of life with the members of Red Wedding.
They worked hard and they played hard, often burning the candle on both
ends, and took full advantage of the sex and drugs that are readily
made available to those in bands. Of course, this fast-paced lifestyle
eventually took its toll on all of them.
In February of 1983, Claudia
announced she would no longer manage the band. She was dealing with
her own personal demons and needed to focus her energies on recovery
from drug and alcohol abuse as well as depression. This was a decision
that was hard for her to make and harder to carry out; letting her best
friends down was excruciating. Her departure also left the band devastated.
Not only were they losing a manager, but a member of their family. It
was a loss that they never fully recovered from.
In the spring of 1983, Red
Wedding played their second Theoretical ( a special birthday
bash for good friend Jim
Van Tyne). Held in an 8,000-square-foot warehouse and using
the back of a 30-foot flatbed truck as a stage, Red Wedding performed
along with Age of Consent, Lotus Lame and John Fleck.
Over 1,000 people showed up.
Throughout 1983 and into
1984, Red Wedding continued to play clubs in L.A., Orange County, San
Diego and San Francisco. They began incorporating more and more diverse,
and often conflicting elements into their music, combining psychedelia,
punk, gloom, funk and pop all into one evening's set. Accordingly, they
began to change their look with every show. From '60s mod to black leather,
from pink suits to boots and trench coats, from choir robes to bathrobes,
the band never seemed to repeat the same look twice. Michael bleached
and dyed his hair so many times that it began to fall out, and in one
memorable show at the Whiskey, he appeared wearing only a shower curtain,
hooks and all.
This unpredictable approach
to their music and attire both delighted and angered critics and fans.
Always difficult to categorize, it was now virtually impossible to label
Red Wedding. While some praised Red Wedding for refusing to follow any
one trend, others criticized the band for having no clear direction.
In July of 1984, Red Wedding
recorded their song "Swimming" for the "Radio Tokyo Tapes
- Volume Two" compilation album, and music soundtracks for two Al
Parker gay porn movies. That August, long time friend Billy Ingram
became the band's second manager, and bassist John Tagliavia was replaced
with Warren Mansfield (due to John's problems with excessive
In September, Red Wedding
recorded their second EP, "Nails." It was produced by Leslie
St. James and recorded in both San Diego and L.A. For this EP, Red
Wedding decided to focus on their darker, homo-erotic material, although
it was decided to delete the most blatant homosexual passages used in
the live version of the song "Bernardo."
"Nails" was released
in late October of 1984 on Important Records. Reviews were mixed,
but the EP made it to number one on many collage radio stations across
the country, and the song "Somewhere" won the 91 X people's choice poll
in San Diego.
In November of 1984, John
(his problems now somewhat under control) rejoined Red Wedding, and
in December, Marc O left the group to start his own band (one that never
materialized). Marc left on friendly terms, and he and Michael continued
to be best friends.
Without Marc's domineering
keyboards, the focus fell entirely on Spider's guitar playing, allowing
him to shine like never before. The band had a new, lean sound. For
hardcore fans, this was Red Wedding at its best, but Red Wedding's heyday
was at an end. Audiences began to dwindle and bookings became scarce.
The band began to lose heart, and Michael became more and more reclusive,
often not showing up to rehearsals.
In March of 1985, Red Wedding
recorded four songs (including "Fiction Theater," the first song
Spider and Michael had written together back in 1975) for their third
untitled EP. Produced by Ed Grundman and Rick Hart, this
was by far Red Wedding's best and most important work, but the EP was
In May of 1985, Red Wedding
gave its final performance playing at the Spirit Club down in San Diego.
After four years with no interest from a major label, frustrated with
having to deal with the jaded Hollywood scene, and burnt out from drugs
and alcohol, Red Wedding called it quits. In 1987, Spider and Michael
resurfaced briefly in a band called "Glass," but Michael no longer
wanted to perform, and he and Spider retired from music in 1988.
On January 5,1992, Marc O
passed away due to AIDS complications. Michael and Spider were by his
side to the end. Marc's memorial service was held at the old Hollywood
Cemetery (the same cemetery in which Red Wedding had posed for their
first professional band photo 11 years earlier). John Tagliavia passed
away from AIDS a year later. Sadly, he had been estranged from Spider
and Michael since the band breakup.
Today, Michael and Spider
are living in Arizona, northwest of Tucson. They both love the desert
and still write and play songs for their own enjoyment. As of December
2001, they will have been a couple for 30 years. Spider works as a structural
mechanic in a jet factory, and Michael takes care of the homefront.
Michael is now in counseling and on appropriate antidepressants, but
his days of mixing prescription drugs with excessive amounts of drugs
and alcohol are long over. Still very much the recluse, and occasionally
still troubled by mood swings, he has found a contentment that eluded
him in the past. Nevertheless, his and Spider's experiences in Hey Taxi
and especially Red Wedding remain close to his heart - the music, the
people, the sheer adventure of it all - the two of them will never forget.
have known Spider and Michael for most of my life (Spider
is my cousin - duh). My young teen years were made bearable by getting
to hang out with these two highly creative people. They taught me a
great respect for all music, and they took me to my first concerts -
Patti Smith, Blondie, The Cramps, the infamous Elk's Lodge
riot where Spider was hit in the throat with a baton courtesy
of the L.A.P.D.
When Spider and Michael
decided to leave The Tracers and branch out on their
own, Michael allowed me the honor of naming their new band -
Hey Taxi. On October 15, 1979, Hey Taxi performed
their first gig at the Hong Kong Cafe. Although it was just their
first show, they sounded like seasoned veterans. The band kicked ass
in my opinion, but Michael was a little hard to sell on this.
He was very nervous and chain smoking cigarettes before, during and
after the show. I reassured him that the band was well received, but
I don't think he believed me. Michael continued to be a nervous
wreck at every Hey Taxi show. I would speak to him over the phone
the following day and he was always on the verge of quitting. On stage
he was mesmerizing, but off stage he hated himself. He didn't like the
way the band sounded, or the way he looked, or the way he sang.
Fortunately, he also had
a great sense of humor and would always end up laughing about it. Hey
Taxi gigs came and went, but the band kept their raw energy while
growing tighter and always faster (Michael was rather obsessed
with playing short, fast songs). Spider played a cream colored
epiphone copy guitar that was splattered with red paint dripped from
a shot glass. Damn, he could make that thing sing. I don't think I ever
saw Michael wear the same outfit twice. Like Bowie, Michael
was the ever changing chameleon, always changing his hair, his clothes,
his attitude and his lyrics.
When Hey Taxi recorded
their only single, I had an orgasm singing background vocals on "Queen
Bee." I was able to get the A-side of the single ("I Hate Dogs")
played on Rodney Bingenheimer's KROQ Sunday night show.
What a thrill. It also meant a lot to me that the band used many of
my lyrics. My favorite tune was one that Michael and I penned together
called - "I Know I Love You, But I Know You Love Somebody Else, But
Why Can't You Love Me Instead?"
Whether it was hanging on
Spider's guitar chord or Michael's coattails, I was having
the time of my life! Michael looked after me and at times tried
to play the mother hen, but he would always end up letting me run amok!
Because I was way, way under the drinking age, Michael or Spider
would take beer away from me, but I would always find a way to get
more. Hey, the beer always made it easier to dance! Like some dumb ass
once said, "All good things must come to an end," and in the summer
of 1981, Hey Taxi metamorphosed into Red Wedding.
Last night I cranked up an
old Hey Taxi rehearsal tape and listened to some of the old songs:
"Mommy Was A Cop," "Mastercharge," "Refrigerator," and "Shake."
Spider and Michael were something else! I'm so glad I
got to be a part in their lives."
(now living in Lansing, Michigan working as a machinist)
never forget the first time I saw Hey Taxi perform. It was Friday
the 13th, the first of two in 1981. I was writing a rock and roll column
and reviewing a array of New Wave bands ( such as the Toasters
and Wendy O. Williams ) for Data Boy magazine, an ad rag
that was distributed in gay bars and ignored by anyone under the age
of death. For a change of pace, I decided to go and review two hardcore
punk bands - Hey Taxi and the Smog Marines - at a new
downtown club called the Brave Dog. This despite a report I saw
the day before on KCBS that proved, scientifically, that the rhythm
of punk music was delivered at the same beat rate as a person's heart
and would, by effect, cause young people to gyrate uncontrollably and
go into violent rampages. It was physiological anomaly!
That night was superb. There
was something poetic and harsh when Hey Taxi took over the stage.
Michael's wild movements and disturbing lyrics meshed perfectly
with Spider's raw, no-detour guitar style. Here was something
more than just straight-ahead punk rock, something more intelligent
and more searing. I was under the spell of Spider and Michael
from that moment on. When Hey Taxi evolved into Red Wedding,
their musicality soared to fantastic heights, but for some reason they
never got that elusive "record deal,"which is probably just as well.
I remember doing shots of cinnamon Schnapps (Michael's favorite) before
an afternoon radio interview on KXLU in 1983. How
funny it was when they asked the members of a notorious gay band to
read a public service announcement for Big Brothers Of America...."Somewhere
out there is a young boy in need of friendship and guidance from a big
brother." We all got a laugh out of that one! Then there was the
radio DJ in Glendale who interviewed the band in 1984, who couldn't
pronounce Rs or Ds - "Let's welcome Wet Wetting!"
wild sex that went on in the parking lot of the Brave
Dog, the Theoretical parties, the San Diego shows and
our day at The Zoo....good times and good drugs. In the
mid-eighties, it became tougher to get good gigs as all the punk clubs
gave way to the Underground (proto-Rave) dance clubs.
Red Wedding played
the last night of the infamous Odyssey nightclub in 1985, before
it was torched by the owners. Now Red Wedding's music exists
for those who remember and by modern punkers who come across one of
their EP releases. Someday, some rock star will have a hit with one
of Red Wedding's songs, probably after we're all dead and gone.
If there was a time machine in existence, I would set the controls back
to the days of Red Wedding and the Brave Dog, and I swear
I would never come back!"
(now living in Greensboro, North Carolina
and working as a graphic artist and creator of TVPARTY.com)
and Spider have been two of my closest friends for years. I first met
them in the early eighties when I was living down in San Diego (working
as a topless dancer), and Red Wedding was playing at the Spirit
Club. They were SO popular down there. The crowds seemed to worship
their every move. Red Wedding was a great band, the perfect mix
of glam, grunge and gloom. Spider was an incredible guitar player.
On stage, Michael seemed so intense and aloof, but off stage
he was such a sweetheart, with a wonderful sense of humor. I was in
love with Marc O's looks. I could barely take my eyes off him
when the band was performing.
Michael and I used
to go out dancing in those days. We made quite a pair, me in my tight
bondage dress and Michael in his baggy black suit. People in
the clubs would actually gather around to watch us dance! In 1983, Michael
invited me to dance with the band on stage at Club Lingerie.
I wore an old vintage wedding gown that was splattered in red paint.
On the train coming up from San Diego for the show, a woman noticed
the bloody gown I was carrying and totally freaked out. She thought
I had had a miscarriage on my wedding night! That evening at Club
Lingerie, I overheard a group of guys making nasty statements about
those "Red Wedding fags." I told Spider and he got REALLY
angry. He immediately went over and confronted them. I thought for sure
that Spider was going to throw a punch, but the guys quickly
backed down, like the real wimps they were. Guess they learned that
you don't mess with a "fag" like Spider."
(now living in Portland, Oregon and working as a dental
saw the band as Hey Taxi! at a little Mexican truckers'
dive called Jacaranda's on 7th Street in downtown L.A.'s produce
market neighborhood in 1979. My friends in "Party
Boys" played there every Saturday and would invite one
or two other bands to join in the festivities.
a band featuring a gay couple (Michael: lead singer; Spider: lead guitar)
was a pretty new idea, just as being out of the closet myself was a
fairly new idea. I instantly loved the band for their looks, attitude,
musical and lyrical skills. It was probably good that the local regular
patrons did not fully get what this band was about. But to the English
speaking faction it was a real breakthrough experience, sans West Hollywood
Soon enough I found myself
moving into the nascent loft community there and spontaneously, the
idea of developing a venue specifically for this audience, had begun
to dawn. I teamed up with a lovely woman, Clare Glidden, and
a year later we were well on our way to opening a small club in Little
Tokyo that would cater to our ideas of new music and art. No fad labels
like "punk" or "nu-wave", we were
shopping for unclassifiably good new "art." More of
a "salon" concept than a typical night club.
We were remodeling "Brave
Dog" from what had previously been an abandoned private Japanese
men's club next to the infamous Atomic Cafe. A completely cool
location, just as AL's
Bar was about to open a few blocks away and a huge explosion
of revolutionary anti-commercial artists and musicians were discovering
cheap warehouse space in the surrounding blocks. Clare and I were parental
snobs about our venue and we began casually shopping for special "talent"
carefully during the six months prior to the club's anticipated opening.
We scoured "the scene" all over L.A.
(just up the street 2 miles) booked anything that would pre-buy tickets
(a real pay-to-play whore house of a club if ever there was one!). But
next door, every week or so, there was a more interesting stage to shop
at The Hong Kong Cafe and I got my chance to introduce Clare
to this out-of-the-ordinary band then called Hey Taxi! And after
another hard day of electrical work on the soon-to-be Brave Dog,
Clare and I got to this show that quite simply clarified our vision
of what Brave Dog could be.
I was stunned by how far
they had progressed since the earlier show on 7th Street. On that stage
I saw something poetic, vulnerable and intense that spoke to me and
most of the people I considered friends in immediate, personal and contemporary
terms. We were awe stuck and spine-tingled. This would be the band to
open the club! Not because they had a "draw," not because
they fit some imagined new market... just because we loved them and
wanted to share them with the new creative community.
That strong innocent spirit
guided us throughout the year and half we were able to keep Brave
Dog going as Hey Taxi! transformed into Red Wedding
on our stage (and others). But they were ours... our special
"find;" our "House Band" playing a show just
about once a month and dickering among ourselves as to who was worthy
to open for them.
But back to that Hong Kong
show. The singer and the guy with the guitar. And a white-faced synth
player (Marc O.) with an intensely handsome Kabuki theater-like presence.
"Something" is a word that reveals how little language
can communicate. And That was something. Nervous though
I was about schmoozing with "rock stars," Clare and
I were beside ourselves and HAD to meet these guys after the
show. They were all amazingly accessible and warm people. We told them
what we were up to and took them down the street to see our little dump.
Clare bonded immediately
with Michael (who I certainly adored from afar) and I completely
enjoyed the randy butch-n-boyish Spider (I never really "bond"
with anybody). Spider knew so much about sound systems and acoustics
which was exactly the point in the project we were moving toward. His
help was boundless and we obtained a decent minimal "Peavey"
P.A. system from "The Brat" (a noteworthy East
L.A. punk band managed by a sexy, young, intellectual Dan Vargas)
for the club negotiated by Spider) and he helped us install
the thing (which was a treacherous job, hanging its speakers from the
Some time passed and the
physical work on The Dog was nearly complete in mid 1980. The
licenses were not happening, though. It was all in hopeless bureaucratic
sludge. Finally, we said, simply: "fuck it." We made
up this arguably legal "Private Party" concept and opened
in November of 1979 with you-know-who as the featured act. Strange and
wonderful acts came and went on and off that stage for about 18 months
thereafter, but the Red Wedding shows were the most memorable
and created a wonderful clan of followers both for the club and the
We did not permit bands who
did cover songs. All the material had to be original. I remember a particular
show when Clare informed me we were going to make an exception to that
rule, but she insisted on wanting to surprise me. Clare attended many
more of their band rehearsals than I did in an old "Tin
Pan Alley" hotel on 7th Street and knew something wonderful
was afoot. The curiosity made me pay special attention. Toward the end
of Red Wedding's set came an unusual pause, silence and darkness, and
what was probably a flashlight followed Michael's face alone in the
darkness onto stage center. "I Feel Bad" he softly
said. And then again, more lyrically. And then more music gathered behind.
And by the time he got to "...though I've done nobody wrong,
I feel bad." A huge gasp came from many in the audience as
we realized Michael was not just covering Marianne Faithful's
dark depressing hit: he was performing it !... living
it more artfully and more personally that Ms. Faithful ever had. More
than a few left the club dewy-eyed and sparkling that night.
Ignoring the bureaucratic
sludge did eventually catch up with Brave Dog and the L.A. District
Attorney's office hauled us in to court challenging our weekly "private
parties" (all the beer you can drink and usually 3 bands for
$5.). We had to close, just as the place's popularity was peaking, with
no chance at ever getting licensed.
Out of some months of depression
that followed we could cheer ourselves up by seeing Red Wedding at
other clubs around town as their following continued to build with the
help of Claudia Miles' excellent management.
Then emerged Jim
Van Tyne (from a dark, scary leather bar in Silverlake: the
OneWay) with the theoretical
concept and a utopian vision for a community of creative,
uncloned, more-often-than-not gay folks. Not a "gay club"
but a gay-friendly artists' haven. There was just one choice to open
up that venue, too:
...as JVT lovingly yet sarcastically (with a giggle) referred
Yes, it's true. Theoretical
owes much of its vibrant legacy to the band that set the tone for
dozens more theoretical events. They made us feel not just good
but blissful about being disenchanted, disenfranchised
and at odds with the ugly growing specter of corporate control over
(Jack was a freelance writer, graphic designer and website
designer in Los Angeles. He passed away in 2008. He may be gone, but he is not forgotten)
my name is Leslie. I currently live in London and work
as a software developer. I worked with Red Wedding producing their
Nails EP. My collaboration with them began in very different circumstances.
It began in LA under a blue black summer sky as I stepped out of the
car and onto the asphalt of Madame Wong’s parking lot. My brother
Will had just driven us up the 150 odd miles from San Diego. Up ahead
four dudes were also stepping out their car. It was getting dark so
we couldn't see them too well, but there was a certain animated in-sync
energy as they walked across the parking lot, up the steps, and through
the entrance into Madame Wong's.
After finding seats inside I had to visit the men’s room. The
men's room was already full of men - the same ones from the parking
lot, and they were crowded around a dingy mirror putting on makeup.
I remarked on this to Will as I sat down. A couple of bands later there
they were again, this time on stage for one of the most mesmerizing performances
I’ve ever seen - Michael, two guitars, a beautiful Korg
synth and no drummer.
Although this was in fact the very same night that Ms Claudia
first met them, I was on an altogether different mission,
in LA to research cloning the Madame Wong phenomenon down south.
Back home I couldn't get that music out of my head. I didn’t really
want to either, so I put an ad in the LA Reader asking, I think, if
they would like to play in San Diego. Before moving to London I began
to see them both on stage and off. I reviewed one of their Spirit
shows, did some emergency mixing the night they upstaged
Bow Wow Wow, and generally tried to make myself useful.
Two things still stand way out from those days. One was at a show in
a sailor's bar long since torn down and forgotten. On stage Red Wedding
were in full flight when Spider, instead of smashing up his equipment,
smashed up the music. Pure, spontaneous inspiration - an aural crime
of passion with a musical soul being ripped apart in front of you, the
most extraordinary and original piece of musical theatre I’ve
ever witnessed. The other, more subtle, lingering memory is of the cosmic
way people materialized around the band. One example, similar to my
first encounter with them, was meeting Terry Hier,
'The Corn-fed Girl’' on her first West Coast night out.
It was at a Red Wedding gig; soon after she became inner circle and
their star groupie. There were others.
Eventually I made a trip back to California to produce the Nails
EP, which essentially was recorded and mixed over two weekends. The
studios were chosen by the band and myself. Tracking was done at Circle
Sound in San Diego, while mixing took place at Mad
Dog in Venice. Some additional time was also spent at an unfinished
studio in the desert somewhere to the east of Glendale or Burbank…
I’d sat in on a run through of the material prior to recording,
but schedules and resources were tight. So, although I knew it was good,
I didn’t know how it would make the transition to tape. My uncertainty
was short lived; what emerged during those sessions was truly awesome.
There were two principal factors which went into creating the Nails
sound, and which captured the live experience in a way missing
from previous recordings.
First is the expression of the music; it has an aura of mature confidence
and power, characterized by a kind of rhythmic élan running through
the songs and identifying them as a body of work. Second was the combination
of recording under pressure but using some sophisticated techniques
more often associated with inflated budgets and production values.
It was exhilarating, and as Nails took shape, big, powerful and provocative,
destiny seemed to be calling with a very big voice indeed. An omen or
so I thought, occurred while exploring the studios at Mad Dog. Looking
into a small closet or storeroom I glanced at the floor and there piled
carelessly, just inside the door where you’d trip over it, was
a stack of 2" tape. The labels read ‘Robbie Kreiger’.
Somewhere on a street corner I can remember telling the band how huge
they were going to be. Where I don’t know exactly, but I do have
memories of walking empty streets late at night in both cities and the
odd sensation of contrasting inner and outer landscapes – dark,
quiet, nobody around and nothing happening in the exterior, and this
ecstatic music and very bright excitement on the interior.
In many respects, nothing within the realms of possibility could have
surpassed what was captured on tape. I had wanted to do some arranging,
the purpose of which would have been to concentrate the hypnotic power
of the music before recording, but unfortunately there wasn’t
time or resource for that particular luxury. Also unfortunate was the
vinyl mastering - a watery echo of what was recorded. Some factors are
crucial to an appreciation of this genre of music unlike say, something
like Bing Crosby. Nails is music which needs to be played ‘at
volume’. With all the dots connected, from recording and mastering
through to playback on a system with grunt, there’s virtually
nothing like it. If and when a CD becomes available you’ll know
exactly what I mean.
Nails was released in the states, more or less. As an artist,
or even an artisan, one strives for perfection and all of us had issues
with the finished master. In the end they didn’t matter. Nails
won the 91X People's Choice Award in San Diego
and received airplay on KXLU for many years. I was
supposed to get a deal for the UK. That didn’t happen. I did however
sit in front of some very, and I do mean very, self-satisfied people.
While the West Coast couldn’t figure what pigeonhole, the holes
in England had somehow heard all before. Walking on the beaches, looking
at the Sneeches…