The Nympho Guns in 1976
|Origin||Bernheim, San Joaquin, Sierra|
The Nympho Guns were a Sierran punk band that formed in Bernheim in 1974. Although their career at the forefront of Sierran punk only lasted about two years, the Nympho Guns are regarded as one of the most groundbreaking musical acts in the history of popular music. They are considered one of the groups responsible for initiating the punk movement in Sierran music and for inspiring many of the punk and alternative rock musicians of the next several decades. They are also famous for their leftwing and anarchist messages and their influence on the punk image as a whole.
The Nympho Guns’ most famous lineup consisted of Tommy Toxic (born Thom Holloway) on lead vocals, Vic Savage on bass and vocals, Billy Brixton on guitar and backing vocals, Mac Kennedy on guitar, and Patrick Cook on drums. In 1977 Cook was replaced by drummer Jack Jane, while Cook’s cousin, Jack Cook, became the band’s manager and publicist. The band first rose to prominence after an impromptu, profanity-laced rant on public television, which captivated many and appalled others. Throughout their career their antics and music became highly controversial, with hit songs such as “Anarchy in Sierra” and “God Save the King” being banned on the RBS and other major broadcasters—the latter song would be nicknamed “the most heavily censored song in Sierran history.”
The band’s only album Nevermind the Maca, Anywhere Here’s our Nympho Guns was released in 1977 to critical acclaim and conservative backlash, becoming a Sierran number one album. The album has since become regarded as one the quintessential albums of punk rock, and one of the best albums of all time. In January 1978, after a controversy-laced, turbulent international tour, Toxic announced the breakup of the band on stage extempore, leading to shock and confusion. The rest of the band under Jack Cook’s influence would go onto create a number of new songs, some of which appearing on the 1979 soundtrack The Decline of Western Civilization, however, this production led to a series of legal battles over Cook’s unethical use of Toxic’s contributions and image, as well as theft of royalties and song credits throughout the band’s tenure. On 31 January 1979 Vic Savage died of a heroin overdose while on bail for the alleged murder of his girlfriend the previous Halloween.
The Nympho Guns have been recognized as one of the most influential bands of all time. In In 2002 the magazine ranked the Nympho Guns as 55th in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In 2006 the Nympho Guns—its six core members, including Savage—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they refused to attend the ceremony, calling the hall of fame “a piss stain”.
History[edit | edit source]
Origins[edit | edit source]
In late 1974, a group of Bernheim high school friends formed a group known as The Shams, which included Mac Kennedy on vocals, Patrick Cook on drums, and Billy Brixton on guitar. According to one account by Kennedy, both Brixton and him stole their instruments. Neither member had any musical experience, but regularly met at Cook’s garage to practice and learn songs, much to the ire of Cook’s father, who the band described as an “alcoholic factory worker who hated rock music”. By the summer of the following year, all the members of the group had become immersed in the local Styxie rock scene. Brixton, a year older than the other two at the age of 17, began skipping his compulsory summer school to spend time going to rock shows, dropping out at the end of summer. He began working at a factory in east Bernheim, often couchsurfing for a place to live. Meanwhile, Kennedy became a fast food worker at a local Toxi's. It was there in August that he was first introduced to Thom Holloway, who walked into the restaurant wearing a tattered The Landing shirt, which had been modified with the handwritten words I Hate above the band’s name. Sparking a conversation, Holloway was soon asked to hang out with the rest of the band at a local pub called The Silver Creek (a Republican establishment named for the famous Republican victory during the Sierran Civil War), run by a friend of Cook’s dad.
The group got along well, although Holloway soon made a name for himself at the Silver Creek for his boisterousness and crass language. According to Kennedy, “he was smart, but he was an asshole.” Brixton later recalled their first meeting, saying, “he walked in with this I Hate The Landing shirt and some messed up, black hair…right away I liked his look. Right away he started talking and I knew he knew what he was talking about.” It was during one of these early encounters that Holloway first adopted the nickname “Tommy Toxic”, which he would use for the rest of his life. According to the other band members it was either a reference to meeting him at a Toxi’s, or the fact that he “always had a toxic mouth on him”, according to Kennedy. After Toxic began drunkenly singing along to the Planetaria’s "Dear Liza" playing on the jukebox one night, the group decided to invite him to their band practices. The group would spend the rest of the summer and early fall skipping school, practicing, drinking and smoking weed, and causing local havoc, getting caught shoplifting on at least one occasion. During this time the band members and their friends regularly hung out at a local clothing store in Bernheim called Planet Lawless, where they met assistant manager Barry Sullivan, and later in the summer, Jorie Reed. Reed, then aged 17, began working at the store full time in August, becoming well known for her spiked, dyed hair and wildly styled looks. Planet Lawless became one of their most frequent hangout spots, and the growing nexus of the local rock scene.
Sullivan and his girlfriend, Britney Matlock, were both associated with the Sierran Liberation Army, interesting Toxic in the group. In the fall of 1975 a period of intensified political violence erupted in Styxie as part of The Disturbances. Sullivan became involved in an armed militia and self proclaimed defense group for republican areas after the 28 August event, in which a series of stores on Commonwealth Street in downtown Bernheim were vandalized or burnt out. According to a 2002 memoir by Mac Kennedy, the band members joined Republican mobs throughout that summer “out of boredom”. On one occasion in September, Kennedy, Toxic, and Sullivan joined a group driving east into neighboring Stuart, burning out a rival clothing store ran by a monarchist as retribution for the Commonwealth Street attack; according to Kennedy, “[Toxic] wasn’t a Republican he just liked lighting shit on fire.” Events such as this led to the San Joaquin Curfew, in which the Sierran Royal Army was called in to search for weapons in the province and put an end to the violence. However, the military searches and seizures only caused more local unrest. On 16 September a column of armored vehicles passed into East Bernheim after being tipped off by an informant. The convoy successfully uncovered a Republican safehouse, seizing a cache of rifles, pistols, and a large quantity of ammunition. As the soldiers were leaving, locals pelted them with stones and bottles; after the violent events that summer locals perceived the action as the government taking away their only means of defense. The following day, Toxic, Kennedy, and Sullivan were among those who took part in rioting, with Kennedy wielding a slingshot to launch gas canisters back at the soldiers. Toxic would be arrested for smashing a store front and would spend 24 hours in jail, returning home a local legend.
Inspired by the events, the group began channeling their rage into music. With Sullivan’s help the group was able to rehearse after hours at Planet Lawless, becoming their unofficial manager. During this time they had a revolving door of various members, as others in the local scene or among their friend group joined the band. In October Gene Beverly joined the group as their lead singer, and the band was renamed to The Damned. Toxic also began singing and playing guitar, while Kennedy pivoted more toward guitar. They would also play with Billy Severin on bass, but he was pushed out of the group in November. Severin later became a writer for Rolling Rock magazine, leading to Toxic quipping, “he gave us horrible reviews ever since.” At first believing they needed a guitarist to lead the group, as well as a bassist, the group attempted to recruit from more locally renowned musicians. Jack Idol, later becoming famous as part of The Ultraviolent, auditioned for the band but was rejected for his look, and because the band found Idol’s competent guitar playing as too good for their style. Frustrated with the group’s direction, Beverly quit soon after. The band decided to adopt a new name, eventually settling on the Nympho Guns.
Deciding to take music more seriously at the start of 1976, the group began showing up to classes less and spending more time performing. They managed to secure a number of gigs at local pubs and parties that spring, and attracted a following of like minded music fans and members of the emerging punk scene centered around Planet Lawless. In April they received their first “major gig”, as the opening act for The Vacants performing at a party near University of Sierra, Bernheim. Lacking equipment, the band arranged to borrow the Vacants’ drum set and amps. Britney Matlock would later recall, “there were something like a hundred of us in that house. The boys were surprisingly listenable, and extremely loud.” The group would perform a number of cover songs as well as two originals, becoming increasingly loud and erratic during their performance and knocking over parts of the drum set. Seeing their equipment was being trashed, Vacants frontman Tommy Jones turned the power off in the house to shut them down, but this caused a fight to break out in which Toxic punched the Vacants’ drummer in the face. Toxic would later recall in an interview, “We hated the way they looked. They were too polished, that wasn’t punk. We were all ugly ‘cause we were working class. We had messed up teeth and cheap haircuts. That was the test back in the day, we’d let you in the band if you had messed up teeth.”
The group also became more interested in revolutionary politics and anarchist thought. Sullivan would be arrested in May 1976, prompting the group to write a protest song and perform it at the Silver Creek later that week. At some point during this time Toxic also began seeing Sullivan’s girlfriend Britney Matlock romantically, later contributing to a violent falling out between the two. Many of the members of the band also took part in protests in and around Bernheim as part of the Disturbances. Using crafting supplies meant for protest banners, the Nympho Guns instead used the supplies to make banners advertising themselves, adopting a ransom-style of writing using cut out letters from newspapers and magazines. Their shows took up a more political slant, with band members often going on drunken rants on stage espousing left-wing politics. They would subsequently be banned from several bars and restaurants in the region for their violent acts while performing, with Toxic often throwing chairs into the audience and “breaking everything he could find.” During a performance at local club The Good Bear, Toxic spent half the show in the audience or at the bar drinking. Jorie Reed, who was rumored to be in a relationship with Toxic, was “thrown off the stage and on top of the crowd”, according to one witness. Toxic and Kennedy were heckled by a crowd member, which evolved into a fistfight. The group would be banned from The Good Bear, but the incident also caused widespread local press for the group.
Around this time, seminal records such as The Killers’ self titled album and London Underground is Flooding by The Banshees had begun to popularize the emerging punk genre. Toxic would later rebuke the claim that The Killers were an influence on the Nympho Guns, calling the Killers “long-haired idiots of no interest to me. We didn’t like anything about them.” The Nympho Guns began to gain new attention in the summer of 1976, and decided to go on tour around San Joaquin, playing at small clubs and bars in cities such as Pittsburg, Antioch, and Brentwood. They were accompanied by several local creatives and musicians, including Matlock, now acting as an unofficial manager and creative muse, Cook’s cousins Jack and Brian, fellow band The Public Images, and singer Jack Hell. The tour would make the group local stars, and their antics attracted nationwide press. Still lacking a permanent bass player, that summer another Planet Lawless regular named Vic Savage was recruited despite having never played the instrument before. He subsequently provided backing vocals and played bass, although the band often left his instrument unplugged during shows. It was during this time that Toxic penned the song “Anarchy in Sierra”, a boisterous anti-monarchist song which soon became their most popular addition at shows.
Commercial Breakthrough[edit | edit source]
"Anarchy in Sierra" became the band's first hit single
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While on tour in San Francisco, the group would record the song as well as four others for a demo tape. They would also make their first television performance on the Sierran music show On the Air. Despite being told to play only a single, brief song, the group would quickly play through several profanity-laced songs before being cut off by producers. They would take part in a multi-band concert the following night, now attracting attention from all across Sierra’s music industry. Music journalism would report the phenomenon of loud, fast songs by bands “unable to play their instruments”, however, fans of the band would retort that the Nympho Guns were developing into a well tuned live act when sober. After a boisterous performance was witnessed by music executive Freddie Grundman, who remarked, “this is the future”, the group was signed to Pacific Records with a two-year contract in August 1976. The group signed up in exchange for a large up-front bonus, much of which was quickly spent on drugs and repairing their antics. The group entered the studio with producer James East, who had famously worked on several Dylan Davies albums, however, the group found his professional style and his demands too cumbersome. Nevertheless, they would record a version of “Anarchy in Sierra” which was released as the group’s first single that October. The single would steadily climb up the singles chart over the course of the next year, eventually peaking at number 35, but in addition to its commercial performance, the song would be heralded as one of the quintessential punk songs of the era and highly influential on subsequent bands. According to James Thomas writing for Music Box magazine, “this is the rallying cry for a generation.”
Unlike earlier forays into the genre, the Nympho Guns’ song shocked audiences with screams of “destroy!”, “I am an antichrist”, and calls for anarchism. Their emerging sound would be called “nihilistic, euphoric, and above all else, loud” by Thomas in 1977. Additionally, promotional art for the group featured Toxic wielding a ripped and vandalized Sierran flag, while the cover art for the single was an all black cover, both becoming punk icons. Continuing to play shows and do press following the single’s release, controversy followed the group wherever they went. On 3 December 1976, the group would make their first nation-wide television appearance on the Johnny Carson Show, having been hastily booked after singer-songwriter Bruce Fleetwood pulled out of the performance at the last minute due to illness. However, their interview would go disastrously after the band members and several other entourage members got incredibly drunk backstage. While on the air, the band members got increasingly belligerent and explicit, with Toxic also drunkenly adding the band had spent their entire advance, and later threatening to fight Carson. The band would be cut off the air after they continued to curse incessantly. Soon after a media firestorm took place as publications covered the events, and many criticized the band’s vulgarity. A moral panic intensified and complaints began to flood into Pacific Records. Royalist senator Stephen Shepard would become at the forefront of the backlash, stating, "Most of these groups would be vastly improved by sudden death. The worst of the punk rock groups I suppose currently are the Nympho Guns. They are unbelievably nauseating. They are the antithesis of humankind. I would like to see somebody dig a very, very large, exceedingly deep hole and drop the whole band down there.”
Nevertheless the band set out on a nationwide tour in early 1977, but upon landing in Porciúncula for the first time at the start of January, the group was reportedly “too drunk to walk” and facing potential legal trouble for what had transpired during the flight. Around the same time, Sullivan broke from the band after discovering Toxic was sleeping with his now ex-girlfriend, and the two got into a fight in which Toxic was hit over the head with a pool cue. During a famous performance later that January, Vic Savage would throw a bottle at a crowd member, causing shattered glass to hit someone in the eye, causing his arrest briefly. As the moral panic increased, shows began to be canceled on the tour and Pacific experienced stores refusing to sell the band’s single. Finally caving to pressure, in February the Nympho Guns were dropped from their label. While in Porciúncula the band hired John Temple to produce the remainder of their debut album at Sunset Sound Recorders. All the members of the band became experimenting with drugs more frequently as well as spending time with groupies and mistresses. Toxic sparked up a brief relationship with lead singer of The Public Images, Debbie Foxx, who was often present during recording. It is during this time that Vic Savage met a local prostitute named Ramona Flowers, becoming inseparable from her. Infighting also plagued the band, with Toxic despising Patrick Cook for siding with Sullivan during their feud, and later for dating Jorie Reed. Cook eventually decided to resign from the band that spring.
According to Toxic, Cook was fired due to his “incessant ramblings”, while according to Cook he voluntarily left by “mutual agreement”. Reed was subsequently exiled from the group’s entourage as well. It was during this time that Toxic emboldened himself as the group’s self-proclaimed leader. The group would record their second single “God Save the King”, a belligerent and cynical take on the Sierran monarch, which Cook supposedly disliked for his lyrics “going too far in the other direction politically”. Arguments also flared on the exact lyricists behind the song, before Toxic credited several others on the track. Toxic would push for a friend and occasional guitarist for The Public Images, Jack Jane, to replace Cook, which Savage later called “stuffing the group so he could outvote us.” However, within months this strategy backfired as their friendship began to deteriorate. Tensions would eventually develop in the band as both Toxic and Savage came to describe themselves as the “lead singer” of the band, becoming two conflicting egos at the front of the group. The other members would describe Vic Savage as “having a deteriorating mental state”, with Kennedy recalling, “[Savage] was always childlike. He loved spectacle and chaos, and didn't care at all about the music or the job part of it. He was a star now, and that went straight to his head. He was being inspired by Charles Manson interviews and taking to heart the batshit stuff he said.”
Flowers, who was already a frequent drug user, introduced heroin to the group in the spring of 1977, especially Savage. She would become a permanent fixture at their recording sessions and shows, despite being hated by the rest of the band, and a frequent supplier of drugs. Savage and Flowers would decide to move in together at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, although Savage’s mood fluctuated erratically, believing on some days that Flowers was attempting to kill him. Friends of the band would describe Savage as occasionally becoming abusive, while Flowers seemed to be continuing work as a prostitute. All the while the band continued recording and performing shows, while Jack Cook, estranged cousin of Patrick who sided with the band over him, became their full time manager and shopped around for a record deal. Despite growing controversy, it soon became clear that punk music was on the rise and that the Nympho Guns would be in high demand.
As a result, on 1 March they signed a new record deal with Warner Records, however, this deal fell through soon after. After a public ceremony announcing the signing, the band attended a party at the Warner headquarters where they became highly intoxicated and fought with other attendees. Savage apparently vandalized a company bathroom and cut his foot and hand smashing items in the office, trailing blood all over the floor and walls before he had to be escorted to a hospital. Meanwhile, Toxic reportedly abused attendees and attempted to have sex with one of the company’s employees. The band fought constantly with label directors, and as a result their record deal was canceled on 12 March. Thousands of copies of the band’s next single which had been pressed by Warner were subsequently destroyed.
"God Save the King", the second single released by the group.
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The group signed a new deal, this time with Avocado Records on 27 March. Eager to debut their next single, production was delayed due to the single’s content causing protests at factories. Nonetheless, in May 1977 “God Save the King” was released with a cover depicting Louis III’s face obscured by cut out letters. The single’s anti-monarchy content – with such lines as “God save the king/he ain’t no human being/And there’s no future/in Sierra’s dreaming” – caused public backlash and the song was banned from RBS and other major radio services in Sierra, leading to the song being called “the most censored song in Sierran history”. Toxic would be proud of this fact, taunting that they were “the only real band on the planet”, while Brixton would remark, “I don’t think we’re even political. I don’t know who the prime minister is.” The band would plan an outdoor concert in the nation’s capital to promote the single, timed so that the monarch would potentially be out at the time. The playing of the song soon caused chaos, with police shutting down the concert and dispersing the gathered crowd. Despite the many setbacks the band faced, the single would sell an estimated 150,000 copies and was expected to debut at number 1 on the Sunset 100. Instead it debuted at number 2, leading to a controversy alleging that the charts had been rigged to prevent the Nympho Guns from taking the top spot.
The single sparked violence against the band, and the punk community as a whole. Toxic would reportedly be jumped by two assailants while in the capital one night, suffering tendon damage and other injuries. The Sierran Loyalist Defense Force allegedly put out a bounty calling for the murder of the band members, while at the same time they were played under investigation by the Royal Intelligence Agency. Their brief tour in the spring of 1977 was mired with problems, including a show in Providencia where a man stormed the stage and knocked out Savage with a punch to the back of the head. Several of their shows would be ended by police or devolve into riots. Jack Cook also came under fire after having his picture taken half naked in front of a derzhavist flag. Their third single, “Holiday in Cambodia”, would be released in July and peak at number 3. The song would be a protest song against Sierran intervention in southeast Asia, and would spark criticism for its lyrics alluding to the assassination of Sierran politicians and the use of racial slurs.
Debut album[edit | edit source]
Work continued all throughout the first half of 1977 on the band’s debut album. Initially titled God Bless our Nympho Guns. Initially expected to take only a couple weeks, recording extended over the course of several months, with numerous versions of songs being recorded. However, most of the band’s time in the studio was spent unproductively, with parties often erupting. As Kennedy recalled, “We were coming at 3 or 4 PM every day and not leaving ‘til at least sunrise. We were high out of our minds…I would wake up for a second and think ‘who are all these people? How did they get in here?’ It was packed.” Having burned through their own money and racking up a massive bill for their new label, Avocado pressured the group to deliver a finished album. Feeling burnt out themselves, Billy Brixton and Jack Jane took it upon themselves to urge the band toward productivity. Most of the band’s subsequent album would begin with instrumental tracks of drums and guitar parts, being built up from there, instead of a typical workflow of drums and bass. It became increasingly clear that Savage was the least focused of all of them, and also the least skilled by far. On tour this had led to his bass often being unplugged during shows, but in the studio Savage insisted that he record and was hostile to criticism. According to Kennedy, “[Savage] finally showed up and wanted to play…it was all trash, just completely unusable.” Luckily for the other members, Savage would often not show up or would be too high to play.
On other tracks, James East would re-record the band’s parts on his own time while members were asleep. In the initial weeks after the breakup with Patrick Cook, the drummer would be invited back to the studio on occasion as a “hired musician”, while on other tracks Jack Hell’s touring bassist Glen Smith was called in, both of which later led to legal disagreements regarding lack of pay and credit. According to East, “Savage’s bass parts appear on some tracks. On some days he would just insist we let him do a take, and I’d record a new take later and leave his playing in there really, really low in the mix.” On one occasion, Toxic reportedly threw a coat on top of an exposed lightbulb, causing a fire in the studio that halted production. With the band banned from Sunset, and facing thousands of dollars in repair costs, Avocado decided to move the band to their own studios where they could keep a closer watch on the band. The label decided to put up with delays and exorbitant costs as the band continued to produce the occasional single; their next release would be “White Riot” in August, which became another top ten hit. The song would come from the band’s experiences with the White Rose Brigades and other racist organizations that opposed punk music, facetiously describing their anger as a “white riot”. The band would be accused of possible racism or instigation of a race war, which the band denied; Toxic would claim in an interview, “the song’s not about that at all. The only thing we’re saying about other races is they've got their problems and they're prepared to deal with them. But white men, they just ain't prepared to deal with them – everything's too cozy. They've got stereos, drugs, hi-fis, cars. The poor blacks and the poor whites are in the same boat, and we need to join up.”
After numerous delays the band’s debut album would finally be released in October, under the name Nevermind the Maca, Anywhere Here’s our Nympho Guns (“maca” being a popular Sierran slang term for bad or trash). The album would shoot to number 1 in Sierra and chart high in numerous other countries, with the notable exception of the United Commonwealth where the album was prohibited from shelves and radioplay. Rolling Rock would praise the album as “the most exciting rock & roll album of the decade”, praising the band’s “explosive energy that descends into complete madness”. Others would raise skepticism of the appearance of all the band’s previous singles, which filled out the album’s run time. The album would be noted for his high profanity, which led to songs being censored in broadcast, and many stores in Sierra refusing to sell the album. Conservative member of parliament Gerard Harvey would call the album, “proof of society’s rapid and ongoing decline.”
Avocado would push the band to tour immediately as the band was now at the peak of their popularity, arranging for a grueling months-long international tour beginning that fall. Tour dates would be disrupted or canceled due to countries such as Manitoba refusing to issue visas to members of the band with criminal backgrounds, but nonetheless the tour took off starting with shoes in southern Sierra. The band would regard the tour as poorly planned, with infighting and constant conflict breaking out. After the band’s dissolution, it would be admitted that the label had sought out shows in towns where the band was hated to provoke altercations and publicity. However, this led to many shows ending in physical altercations with audience members. Vic Savage, who was now deep in the throes of a heroin addiction, was increasingly belligerent and distracted by his pursuit of drugs in each town they went to. At a show in Seattle, Astoria a show came to an abrupt close after Savage reportedly began to receive oral sex while on stage. After the show, Savage claimed that security guards had attacked and beaten him. While in Astoria, Savage would disappear all night in search of drugs, often showing up to shows injured or high. As the first leg of the band’s tour came to a close for the holiday season in late December, the members had a brief period of reprieve in their native Sierra, with at least one recording season taking place in Bernheim toward the end of the year. In January they returned to the road even less focused and interested in touring.
On 19 January, while performing in Apfelhein in northern Sierra, Savage appeared at the show covered in cuts and bleeding. He began to carve a message on his chest with broken glass while on stage, which he later called “his suicide note”. The show came to an abrupt halt as he was rushed to the hospital. Relationships within the band continued to deteriorate, with Toxic becoming fed up with the other members, and Savage attempting to lead the band with his own songs that he had begun writing. On 30 January the band played a show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, and after completing their set Toxic said to the crowd, “You ever get tired of doing the same shit? That was the last ever show of the Nympho Guns. Good night,” and stormed off stage. Toxic’s declaration was a shock to the rest of the band. The few remaining tour dates for the band were canceled, and Toxic abruptly drove off to the nearest airport and left the country. He would announce the following day while in London that the band was breaking up. The rest of the band, as well as the label, debated the next course of action for the band, with Avocado floating the idea of Toxic being replaced.
Post-Breakup[edit | edit source]
In the meantime Kennedy, Savage, and Brixton returned to Bernheim and at Jack Cook’s insistence they began experimenting on new songs in the studio. In February, now completely broke, Toxic called up the head of Avocado Records asking for a return flight to Sierra from London. Savage meanwhile was checked into the hospital by friends after he began dramatically losing weight. During these February sessions, many of which without Toxic present, the band recorded a handful of tracks, mostly written by Savage. A demo would be produced for a “Savage solo single”, which the other members of the band and producer James East found too unfit to release. After a drunken altercation with the press on 20 February, Savage declared to them that, “the Nympho Guns aren’t over, far from it”, causing a media uproar. Toxic returned to sessions at the end of the month but this sparked arguments as he found some of Savage’s song “detestable”, and he also squabbled with Cook, who he thought was trying to milk the band’s image for as much money as possible. At the end of the month Cook put forth the idea of creating a feature length film starring the band and their music, which Toxic disapproved of. Around this time a second, unofficial album comprised of leaked tracks recorded over the course of the last two years was bootlegged and widely distributed, called Bernheim is Burning, which caused Toxic to want to abandon the songs featured on that album as well, despite Cook’s protests. On 28 February, Savage and Ramona Flowers booked a plane to Porciúncula without the band’s knowledge and began living together at the Cecil Hotel, a reportedly haunted and cursed place in the infamous Skid Row district of the city. Toxic also became disillusioned with recording and quietly disappeared from the band once more.
Sample of "Complete Control" (1978)
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Without Toxic’s knowledge or involvement, Cook would push for the release of the band’s next single in March, the song “Complete Control”. The song would feature vocals from Toxic that were heavily lowered in the mix, with Savage doing the lead vocals, and the song would be officially credited to Savage, Brixton, Kennedy, and Cook as writers. With rumors and confusion of the band’s breakup in conversation, the single peaked at number 2 on the Sunset charts. Toxic would later find out about the song’s release and consider it a betrayal, but at the time he claimed he was “too depressed and off the drugs to do anything about it”. That spring he would take up an invitation to meet up with frequent collaborators and old friends in San Francisco, including guitarist Zach Nolan of The Public Images, who began formulating an idea for a new band. Meanwhile, Kennedy, Brixton, and Jane would fly out to Brazil at Cook’s request to finish work on a potential new album. Still focused on the concept of a feature film, Cook had now pivoted to having the band create a soundtrack. Working with producer Keith Chelsea in Rio de Janeiro, Cook arranged a number of tracks by skimming through the band’s old demos and rehearsal tapes. A number of songs would be created by taking old vocal performances done by Toxic, some a few years old, and adding new music to them by the rest of the band or session musicians. Also while in Brazil, the band would meet up with Ronnie Biggs, a famous exiled British criminal who was staying in Brazil to avoid extradition, and the group recorded the song "No One Is Innocent" with Biggs providing vocals. This would later be released as the band’s next single that summer.
Vic Savage, who was without the band in Porciúncula, became increasingly destructive. Running out of money and facing legal trouble, Savage agreed to meet up with the band once more in New York to film scenes for Cook’s envisioned mockumentary. Upon landing in the city, Savage was rushed to the hospital after falling into a drug-induced coma. Although he was revived, he would be told that if he did not quit drinking within the next several months he would be dead. While in New York, Savage’s mood swung heavily, on some days cooperating with film production, on other days violently threatening Cook. One day on set Savage attacked Cook with a knife and demanded that he immediately sign an agreement releasing Savage from his contract and from Cook’s supervision. Flowers, who had been forbidden from the film set, staged a suicide attempt on 13 May as retribution for being “abandoned” at the couple’s hotel room, causing Savage to go into a rage at Cook. The couple would abandon New York and fly back to Porciúncula on 18 May. By coincidence, Savage would run into Patrick Cook, the former Nympho Guns drummer, while on the street in the city, and the two would decide to begin playing together. They would create a new group, called the Bare Naked Savages, and play one show in Hollywood, with Savage on lead vocals, Cook on drums, Flowers on backing vocals (although her mic was unplugged by Cook), Arthur Allen of The Pets on guitar, and John Stanley on bass.
Savage took a liking to the idea of performing under a new band in more low-pressure settings, and with Flowers as his self-proclaimed manager, he began playing a number of small venues around the city. Eventually as word spread of Savage’s endeavors, the crowds grew and became belligerent at Savage for his “bad Toxic impressions”, causing Savage to insult and fight his audience. The couple would move back into the Cecil Hotel, supporting themselves with money from shows and money that Flowers swindled from her parents. Savage began casually seeing other women, including actress Jill Colvin and Toxic’s ex-girlfriend Britney Matlock. On 18 August, Savage would meet up with Cook at a show in North Hollywood, where he was introduced to several other musicians, including bassist Scott Pelerinage from The Public Images. Although the group initially celebrated and talked, an altercation broke out between Pelerinage and Savage in which Savage smashed a bottle on the other man’s head and attempted to stab him. Savage would be arrested two days later and charged with assault. He would be sentenced to 14 days in prison on account of breaking his previously given parole, and was placed into forced detoxification.
Immediately following his release from prison, Savage reunited with Flowers and began using drugs once more. The duo would partake in a show with Arthur Allen on 23 October, which would be their last performance together. Becoming increasingly paranoid, Savage trashed and pulled apart the couple’s hotel room at the Cecil. Savage would also book a week-long studio session in Porciúncula, where he recorded the song "Too Drunk to Fuck", as well as a cover of an old Nympho Guns song, "Who Killed Bambi?". When the rest of the band returned to Sierra that fall, neither Savage nor Toxic met with them. Under Cook’s guidance a double-LP soundtrack album had been hobbled together, later released as The Decline of Western Civilization. The album would feature unauthorized Toxic tracks with his vocals, songs written and sang by Savage, instrumental songs, and songs featuring other band members or guest singers providing lead vocals. In the meantime, a live album called Live from Sierra was released in October 1978 with recordings made in the winter of 1977/78.
On 30/31 October a party would be held by Savage and Flowers at their room in the Cecil Hotel. Savage was reportedly blacked out from taking over 30 barbitutes, while guests came and went into the hotel room. At around 11:00 AM on the morning of 31 October hotel staff would discover a disheveled and high Savage wandering the hotel halls covered in blood. The hotel room would be entered to discover the body of Ramona Flowers on the bathroom floor, having been stabbed with a knife in the abdomen. A hunting knife, which had been a possession of Savage’s, was discovered soon after in the hotel room covered in blood. According to witnesses, Flowers had been alive around sunrise when they left. Savage was subsequently arrested and charged with second-degree murder, telling police while in a erratic state that he had murdered Flowers, before repeatedly changing his story to having no knowledge of what happened, to saying he didn’t do it, and then that Flowers had stabbed herself. Savage would make numerous, incoherent statements while in custody. Jack Cook and Avocado Records would arrange for a team of lawyers to aid in Savage’s case, arguing that any number of guests could have been responsible for the killing, and criticized the city’s police for not pursuing other leads.
Much to the shock of the prosecutors, Savage would be released on a $50,000 bail on the conditions that he not leave the city, and that he sign in daily at both the city homicide unit offices and at a methadone center. During a psychiatric evaluation the following week, Savage would slit his wrists with a broken lightbulb after briefly being left alone, and he would spend the next few weeks in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. All the while, members of the Nympho Guns expressed support for Savage and the belief that he was innocent. An album and potential benefit concert to support Savage’s legal defense was also teased by Jack Cook, and shirts with Savage’s picture were quickly sold. Toxic would reportedly try to reach out to Savage during this time, but his calls were blocked by Cook and by Savage’s aunt. Savage would remark to the press that. “[Flowers’] death was meant to happen. She always wanted to die.” Upon being released from the hospital, Savage returned to the Cecil Hotel and remained unable to stay out of trouble. On 3 January he trashed a bar while drunk and narrowly escaped arrest. He was forced into a rehab program in mid January by Cook.
On the morning of 30 January 1979 Savage was released from his program. He would return to the Cecil Hotel and meet up with his friend and occasional lover, Sydney Lavin, where the two used drugs all throughout the night. Lavin reportedly would leave the hotel around 3:00 AM. That morning, Savage would be discovered dead from a drug overdose in his sleep, although it would immediately be claimed that his overdose was not unintentional, with close friends citing a “suicide pact” that Flowers and Savage had made, and the cryptic letters discarded all around the hotel room. Despite wishes to be buried with Flowers in her hometown in New Jersey, Flowers’ family refused this and Savage was instead cremated. Toxic would remark in an interview years later, “The only way he could live up to what he wanted everyone to believe about him was to die. That was tragic, but more for him than anyone else. He really bought his public image."
Also at the start of the year, Toxic initiated a lawsuit against Jack Cook, claiming that non-payment of royalties, unfair contractual obligations, that Cook was using his compositions, image, and name illawfully, and claiming damages for “all his criminal activities”. Initially allied against Toxic, the rest of the band switched sides when it became clear that Cook had been withholding payments that they were all rightfully due and was pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars himself. Cook would subsequently be ruled against, with Cook’s upcoming film and soundtrack being placed into receivership for addressing the band members’ financial claims. The Decline of Western Civilization would be released in March, despite Toxic’s apprehension, producing a number of hit singles. Savage’s rendition of “Something Else” would peak at number 2, becoming the biggest-selling single under the band’s name.
In late 1978, Toxic formed a new band known as The Fall Digitals, with Zach Nolan of The Public Images on guitar, Glen Smith of the Jack Hell band on bass, and Jonas Baker of The Dry on drums. The band became quickly publicized as a “punk rock supergroup”. The band would release their debut single “Public Order” in January 1979, a song that Toxic had begun writing while he was still in the Nympho Guns. The single would be received well and peak at number 9 on the Sunset charts, and also performed well on import in the United Kingdom. The band would play a series of shows in Porciúncula, although these shows soon became rife with controversy as Toxic often verbally jousted with audience members, and the band refused to do business with the major concert promoters or their label, preferring local management.
On 25 January the band would make their sole television appearance, appearing on the teenage music show Sierran Bandstand. The performance proved chaotic, with lip syncing quickly being abandoned, Toxic inviting audience members onto the stage, and the band’s equipment being trashed. The band rehearsed and wrote music for the next month, however, Toxic’s legal battles and the death of Vic Savage halted production. According to Toxic, many of the lyrics written so far for the band’s album were diatribes against Jack Cook or Savage, the latter Toxic came to regret after Savage’s death. Toxic would meet with the other members of the Nympho Guns in February, attempting to make amends. He was diagnosed with severe laryngitis and bronchitis on 20 February and was hospitalized for the rest of the month, ensuring that work with either band would not continue for some time.
Similarly, Brixton reunited with Patrick Cook, the band’s original drummer, eventually forming The Amateurs. Eagerly hoping to obtain a successful act akin to the Nympho Guns, Avocado heavily promoted the Amateurs as the next evolution of the band, something Toxic spoke out against. The Amateurs would release their debut single that summer, “I Didn’t See it Coming”, which Toxic had previously dismissed during the time of the Nympho Guns. The single would go on to peak at number 23 on the Sunset charts.They recruited session musician Ray Myers to play bass on the band’s subsequent debut album, however, this led to legal problems as Myers was never signed to Avocado, and the label refused to pay or credit him initially. In 1981 the Amateurs reunited with Toxic for the first time in two years and Toxic decided to join the band on their tour bus as they traveled between Vancouver and Everett, Astoria. Brixton and Toxic drew playing cards to determine who would take an available bed at the front of the bus. Drawing an ace of spades, Toxic won the bet. Brixton would give up his bed to Toxic, with Brixton instead taking a bunk toward the back of the bus. Around 7 AM on 30 January 1981, according to the driver, the bus skidded off the road and flipped over onto the grass. Brixton would be thrown violently through the window of the bus and then crushed by the bus turning over, killing him instantly.
According to the driver, the crash occurred due to icy conditions, although the band members would later accuse the driver of having been drinking. The following day police failed to find ice on the road, and local newspapers speculated that the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. The driver was determined not at fault for the accident and no charges were brought against him. The 1981 accident would mark the end of The Amateurs, and would be heavily traumatizing for Toxic, who blamed himself for Brixton’s death. Toxic’s stress over the matter led to his resignation from Fall Digitals sometime after. He became a noted recluse during this time, and also experimented heavily with a dreamachine installed in his house, and showed a paranoid fascination with the occult. After an intervention put on by friends, fellow musicians, and Avocado Records executives, Toxic entered a detox program on 9 June 1981, however, on 20 June he escaped the facility by jumping a fence and booked a flight back to New York City. Toxic would be discovered on 13 June, having committed suicide by gunshot. A suicide note was discovered which included the line, “I have not felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing ... for too many years now". A high concentration of heroin and other trace substances was discovered in his system. He was 21 years old.
Legacy[edit | edit source]
The Nympho Guns are considered one of the most groundbreaking acts in the history of popular music. Writing upon the 50th anniversary of their debut album, Rolling Rock remarked, “their importance, both in the direction of contemporary music and more generally in regards to culture, can hardly be overstated.” According to Music Box magazine, “the Nympho Guns are the perfect encapsulation of the frustration felt by the people of Sierra, the era of heightened fear brought about by the Disturbances, and the opposition to the complacency and stardom trappings prevalent in Hollywood.” In 2002 the magazine ranked the Nympho Guns as 55th in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. Leading music critic Lester Roberts would call the band “unquestionably the most radical new rock band of the 1970s”.
The Nympho Guns are not considered the first ever punk band, but they are considered the leaders of the movement, and one of the first bands to break through into the mainstream from Sierra. Their brief existence was one of the catalysts for the movement’s rise to prominence, and they are fondly regarded as one of the most influential acts in the genre. The release of their hit singles “Anarchy in Sierra” and “God Save the King”, as well as their album Nevermind the Maca, Anywhere Here’s our Nympho Guns, are considered some of the most important moments in the history of popular music, with Nevermind the Maca often cited as one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2006 it was voted the 24th best album by Sierran voters, while in 1987 Rolling Rock placed it at number 2 in its “Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years”. AllMusic has called it “one of the greatest and most inspiring rock albums of all time”.
– Pauline Murray
Much of the style of modern punk rock, its fashion, and its subculture, draws heavily from the precedent set by the Nympho Guns. According to Inon Clarke, “the Guns challenged every aspect and precept of modern music-making, thereby inspiring countless groups to follow their cue on stages around the world. A confrontational, nihilistic public image and rapidly nihilistic socio-political lyrics set the tone that continues to guide punk bands to this day.” Music critic Jackie Nolan would note, “contrary to the popular image of punk rockers, the Nympho Guns were serious about their music. They developed a massive wall of sound based on the most simple, ear-catching guitar riffs. They reinforced the true spirit of rock and roll: that you don’t need the best technique or the best equipment to make music.” From their influence an “inner circle” of punk bands emerged from central Sierra that has credited the Nympho Guns as their inspiration. As the leading voice to come out of the Styxie during the time of The Disturbances, the Nympho Guns set the tone for youthful rebellion, nonconformity, and dissatisfaction with the royal government that punk music exemplifies. Many of their songs have become rallying cries not just against the Sierran government, but internationally as anthems for change.
Outside of music the Nympho Guns remain influential in numerous different pursuits. Their minimalist, rough graphic design remains one of the most influential and recognizable styles of the 1970s, and continues to influence bands decades later. The band pioneered a “do-it-yourself” approach to music and marketing, emphasizing the creation of custom, all-encompassing branding, which they had a hands-on approach in making. They are credited with commercializing the popular “t-shirt-selling icon”. After the breakup of the band and the untimely death of many of its members, the Nympho Guns came to personify the rock & roll mythos, and the idea of the inevitable failure of the archetypal doomed youth.
Band members[edit | edit source]
Musicians other than the band members who contributed to various songs:
Timeline[edit | edit source]
Discography[edit | edit source]
Studio albums[edit | edit source]
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Nevermind the Maca, Anywhere
Here’s our Nympho Guns
||1||106||23||15||100||12||96||RIAA: 2x Platinum|
Other albums[edit | edit source]
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Bernheim is Burning
|Live from Sierra
|The Decline of Western Civilization
|Anarchy in Sierra: The Nympho Guns
Singles[edit | edit source]
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1976||“Anarchy in Sierra”||35||—||—||—||—||—||—||Nevermind the Maca, Anywhere|
Here’s our Nympho Guns
|1977||“God Save the King”||2||—||38||21||—||3||—|
|“Holiday in Cambodia”||3||—||8||11||—||9||—|
|1978||“Complete Control”||2||—||8||37||—||13||—||The Decline of Western Civilization|
|“No One Is Innocent”||7||—||12||68||—||—||—|
|1983||"Anarchy in Sierra" (reissue)||89||—||—||—||—||—||—||Non-album single|
|1984||"Pretty Vacant" (live)||28||—||—||—||—||—||—||Anarchy in Sierra: The Nympho Guns|
|1986||"Who Killed Bambi?"||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||The Decline of Western Civilization|
|1992||"Anarchy in Sierra" (2nd reissue)||33||—||92||—||—||—||—||Nevermind the Maca, Anywhere|
Here’s our Nympho Guns
|1998||"God Save the King" (reissue)||18||—||—||—||—||—||—||Nympho Guns|
|2007||"Anarchy in Sierra" (3nd reissue)||70||—||—||—||90||—||—||Nevermind the Maca, Anywhere|
Here’s our Nympho Guns
|"God Save the King" (2nd reissue)||38||—||—||—||—||—||30|
See also[edit | edit source]
- Music (Altverse II)
- Featured articles
- A-class articles
- Altverse II
- Nympho Guns
- 1974 establishments in San Joaquin
- Avocado Records artists
- Controversies in the Kingdom of Sierra
- Sierran punk rock groups
- Musical groups disestablished in 1978
- Musical groups established in 1974
- Musical groups from Bernheim, San Joaquin
- Obscenity controversies in music
- Pacific Records artists
- Warner Records artists