Talkin' Trash(men)

Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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What is the worst song ever recorded?
I got to thinking about that the other day as I was driving up to Watertown by myself and scanning the AM radio dial in search of some music instead of sports talk for a change. (Every sports talk radio host can only go about five minutes these days before bringing up how the Vikings threw away another opportunity to be playing in the Superbowl and I’m still not ready to  be reminded of that debacle against the Saints which left every Minnesota fan, who had dared to hope again, as deflated as the Hindenburg.)
The dial stopped at 910 The Ranch in Brookings which was playing old country.   I like country music okay but some of those tunes from the early days were real groaners; “If finger prints showed up on skin” by Freddie Hart always made MY skin crawl.  Same with some of the popular rock and roll songs of my generation (50’s & 60’s) which I just considered awful even though I played in a rock and roll band myself.
Topping the list was “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen.  
It is regarded by some as the birth of REAL rock and roll laid open to the bare bones through pounding drums and electronic guitar racket in the key of E with a raspy repetitious satanic voice belching out non- seneschal lyrics appealing to our Neanderthal instincts insisting that the bird’s the word.
It was, I felt, playing right into the hands of those parents and preachers who believed  rock and roll was evil to the core and the snare used by Beelzebub to swoop up rebellious teenagers into his lair.
But how could you group The Trashmen in with the likes of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, James Brown, Elvis, Connie Francis, The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, every singer on MoTown and all the other GENUINE  musical talents of the day?
But I hated The Trashmen for more than “Surfin’ Bird.”
I hated them because they were bad luck. I went to three of their concerts in the early 60’s and came close to getting my head bashed in at each one of them.
I’m not sure why, but in high school, I had my own version of the Scut Farkus from “A Christmas Story.” (That WAS the bully’s first name, by the way, not Scott.)
My nemesis’ name was Gary or Jerry..I can’t remember. He was from  Brookings who had a reputation as a “foot”fighter.
I’d never actually seen him in action but everyone said that long before anybody had heard of martial arts, he’d mastered the technique of lifting his leg up in a split second and able to knock your block off before you know what hit you. He and his toady, Virgil, would show up at dances where my band was playing and give me the stink eye on stage.
I don’t know why they hated my guts so much but they seized every opportunity to back me into a corner and make me beg for mercy…which, I’m ashamed to admit I did on every occasion including at two Trashmen appearances at the Showboat Ballroom in Lake Benton and one at the Brookings Armory.
I never did feel the sting of Gary or Jerry’s number 12’s on my nose but have also never forgotten the shame of wimping out in front of my friends as The Trashmen were playing that annoying "Papa ooh mow mow” in the background.
I don’t blame The Trashmen for their success with “Surfin’ Bird” because they were actually a pretty darn good band; doing  a lot of non-novelty top forty stuff too.
In fact, three of the original members..all pushing 70 now.. are still together and big hits in Europe where they begin another tour next month.
Wouldn’t it be something if I went to their concert in Oslo and this old guy came up threatening to kick my teeth in?
I’d probably still chicken out.PS The new South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum is now open on the second floor of the Pavilion. Lots more stuff to add but it’s really taking shape!

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