Saturday, September 4, 2010


In memory of Fear bassist Derf Scratch, who passed away a couple of weeks ago.

In 1977, long before the early hardcore movement featuring the likes of Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and the Bad Brains, there were a handful of bands that bridged the gap between the Ramones and those affore-mentioned punkers.

There were Sex Pistols, X, The Clash and the Damned, 3 of the 4 from the disenfranchised U.K., and America offered the east coast Misfits. All the way across the contiguous states, out of L.A., was Fear.

Incendiary to the nth degree, they were still the envy of many punk bands in their wake for despite writing songs that seemed to support bashing gays, or embrace misogyny and debauchery, they could flat out play.

The content of their music wasn't all of the "piss 'em off" variety, however. When they "got serious", political unrest (Let's Have a War, Foreign Policy) and mental illness (Camarillo, Welcome to the Dust Ward) were well thought-out and performed.

Leader Lee Ving's voice could be as tuneful as much as it could display the raw rancor and howl it was noted for. Spit Stix was a demon on drums. His drumming seemed out of control and weird, and I feared for the safety of his snare, as he plain beat the shit out of that thing. It oddly sounded like he used it as a replacement for a ride cymbal. Philo Cramer had some eardrum-shrieking leads and Derf Scratch was an excellent addendum to the rhythm section with Stix.

Fear was getting notices long before they cut their first LP, "The Record" due to John Belushi's drug-addled attempts to push the band on anyone who would listen, and an infamous display in Penelope Spheeris' documentary "The Decline of Western Civilization".

Why, who could forget their head-scratching 1981 Halloween appearance on "Saturday Night Live" where slam dancers destroyed the place, one grabbing Ving's mic and screaming "Fuck New York!!" at the top of his lungs.....

All before their first record came out. That's pre-consummated reputation, folks.

Where am I going with all this?

I had decided to revisit their music a few weeks back while on a cigarette break in my car. (editor's note: I have long since quit since this was written)  I happen to own two Fear cds and on a sauna of a day, began listening to "The Record".  About 5 songs in, I felt the need to switch to their live reunion album "LIVE for the Record".

As I ejected the first disc, my stereo went into it's radio default mode. Turning to my right, and my trusty cd binder to grab "LIVE", the radio voice spoke these words:

"Fear,.... today is the fear show,...I'll show you how to tolerate your fear of investing"

A lot of people may have been a bit taken aback by that astronomical synchronistic event. I just cocked my head, thinking "Of course that just happened." and slid in the second disc, firing immediately into "Null Detector".

However, something like that just doesn't sneak by me, and I knew immediately a blog post would be necessary....

two weeks later Derf Scratch died.

Here it is.

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