Crime San Francisco’s Doomed
Crime formed in 1976 in San Francisco, California. Ricky James (Drums), Frankie Fix (Gtr/Vox), Ron The Ripper Greco (Bass) & Johnny Strike (Gtr/Vox) may well hold the dubious honour of being the first US Punk group to release an independent record, the self-financed “Hot Wire My Heart”/”Baby You’re So Repulsive”.
You could say Crime were criminally overlooked (ouch). Whatever the history books say, they are invariably wrong. Some will tell you that Crime were the real deal. Others that they didn’t fit it. From that you will understand why Crime are so important. It’s all about NOT fitting in.
Crime played gut-level punk rock n roll sometime before the genre had been fully formed. Their fellow progenitors included Rocket From The Tombs, The Real Kids & a whole host of long forgotten US groups. From 1976 until 1977 Crime were a party way out of control. It had to crash - & it ultimately did. The only live footage of Crime I’ve ever seen was of them playing in the quadrangle of San Quentin State Prison. Needless to say, the prisoners looked scared - Crime were dressed as LA cops!!!! Confrontational? Crime?
The following interview was conducted by Mike Horn for Punk magazine (Issue 11) from 1977. It has been used here without his permission because you’ll be far more interested to read it than read line after line of me crapping on about how great Crime were. Their words speak volumes:
CRIME interview from Punk #11 (1977)
Interview by Mike Horn:
I'd been hearing weak grapevine rumors about the Crime band. So I decided to catch their act. I took Page, the world famous bring-em-back-alive photographer, along with me.
We caught up with Crime at the Cinemadrome, a bombed-out rehearsal hall near the corner of Sixth and Howard in San Francisco. The neighborhood featured warehouses, a sprinkling of bondage bars and a methadone clinic, so the band's black limousine really stood out. Three of the band members were there when we arrived:
Frankie Fix (Guitar, Vocals)
Johnny Strike (Guitar, Vocals)
and Ron the Ripper (Bass)
They were sitting on a ratty couch down at one end of the cement-floored room, staring at the egg cartons that had been nailed to the walls to give the Cinemadrome that studio look. We sat down, and Crime opened up.
FRANKIE: There's a lot of bands that want to cash in on the punk scene and get in on the fad, but we're the real punks! It's tough making it big here in San Francisco, and we've talked about moving to another city, but as long as we're here...
JOHNNIE: Some people think the Nuns are the big punk band around town, but they're not. I hate to say it, but we're the only punk band happening at the present time in San Francisco.
PAGE: How long have you been together?
FRANKIE: About a year.
PAGE: Where are you from?
FRANKIE: Er, Harrisburg. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Ricky James [aka Ricky Sleeper/Tractor/Flipper], the drummer, entered with Dee Dee, a female friend, and we were introduced. Ricky never said a word the whole time we were there.
FRANKIE: Yes, as I was saying, Johnnie and I had a record shop in Harrisburg. We've been together a long time.
JOHNNIE: We're the first and only Rock and Roll band in San Francisco!
This evoked a dead silence. We just looked at each other for a minute or so.
HORN: When I can't think of good questions to ask, I just keep my mouth shut.
FRANKIE: That's OK, we'll ask the questions.
HORN: What bands do you guys like to listen to?
JOHNNIE: Oh, the Nerves, Patti Smith, Bob Marley, the Ramones, the Dogs, Quick, Killer Kane...
HORN: Where do you play?
FRANKIE: At the Mabuhay Gardens, the Stud Bar... We played the Sonic Rendezvous for a SIR party, a sort of gay Halloween trip...
HORN: I'll bet it's hard to pay the rent on this place.
JOHNNIE: Yeah, we all pool our unemployment checks and just barely make it. It's too bad we can't sleep here.
HORN: Then Crime does not pay?
FRANKIE: No, not yet.
JOHNNIE: But it will.
HORN: That's what the all say.
RON: Are you a real photographer? Where's your portfolio?
PAGE: I don't carry me portfolio around with me, darling! I was a combat photographer in 'nam for four and a half years!
I had 86 pages in Life Magazine! I'd need a fuckin' semi just to haul me slides about! I just carry me camera and a few lenses for jobs like this one! (takes a picture of Ron) You think I'm not a photographer?
DEE DEE: Do you take pictures for Rolling Stone?
PAGE: I'm freelance, like Ike Horn. I'll take pictures for anybody...I did some shots for Steve Miller's album cover last year... I shot the old Doors, the Soft Machine...
JOHNNIE: I haven't listened to Steve Miller in about ten years.
PAGE: What do you want on your album cover? An egg carton?
FRANKIE: No, two dead chicks with their heads busted open in an alley...lots of blood.
PAGE: (gets excited) You want dead people? I've got lots of left-over slides from 'nam! Lots of corpses! I just sold some to Hustler, but I've got some good ones left. How about a couple of chicks napalmed Vietnamese chicks with their heads blown off?
HORN: We haven't gotten to your message yet.
FRANKIE: We like to come on strong...get real boring...leave 'em stoned.
PAGE: Where'd you get your combat boots?
FRANKIE AND JOHNNIE: Huh?
PAGE: Your boots! (points to Frankie and Johnnie's look-alike shiny new khaki combat boots.) Where'd you get those A-1s?
FRANKIE: The Army-Navy surplus store.
PAGE: I've got six pairs at home. I've got all sorts of gear that I brought back from 'nam.
JOHNNIE: Got any Nazi stuff?
PAGE: No, but I've got a real nice selection of Viet Cong pajama suits, fragment grenades, camouflage material, AK 47s...
Crime lost interest at this point, and went to the far end of the Cinemadrome to tune up, so we turned out attention to Dee Dee, who looked a lot like Eva Braun. She was leafing through a copy of the Philosophy of Andy Warhol and chewing gum, but she took the time to answer a few questions.
HORN: Where are you from?
DEE DEE: Detroit.
HORN: Are you a musician?
DEE DEE: I'm a vocalist.
HORN: Are you in a group?
DEE DEE: Not right now. I'm looking around, checking things out. I might put a group together. San Francisco sucks.
HORN: What do you think of the Nuns?
DEE DEE: They're OK. I like Crime better. They have good material, but I don't care for the way they put it across.
HORN: How do you spell your name?
DEE DEE: Dee eee eee Dee eee eee.
We need more new music in Detroit.
PAGE: Yes, but do we need Detroit? I mean, really!
Crime launched into their set at then and conversation became impossible. They did 'Raw Rumble', 'Hotwire my Heart', 'Money Crazy', 'Galvanized Grime', 'Manic Mainline', and were half-way through 'Murder by Guitar' when Ricky broke his drum pedal.
Page had shot a roll of film, so we decided to leave. We'd heard enough. Crime was super loud, with their Marshalls turned up all the way. Their drone reminded me a little of the old Velvet Underground, but they didn't make me fell like dancing. They posed a lot, totally into their self-image of a bad-ass neo-Nazi killer punk band.
They were fake punk.
HORN: Hey, we'll see you later.
JOHNNIE: Have you got enough for a story?
HORN: Yeah, was that last song 'Guitar Lover'?
JOHNNIE: No, that was 'Murder by Guitar'.
HORN: Oh...sorry, I guess that was a Freudian slip.
FRANKIE: Come back any time. We're here rehearsing every night from seven 'til ten.
We eased our way out the door and back onto Howard street. It was a bleak, cold night with the usual Frisco fog.
My ears hurt.
PAGE: Where's the fuckin' safety pins? They're not a real punk band, that lot!
HORN: They want to be one, though. More than
anything Crime wants to be the number one, killer punk rock band in San Francisco.
PAGE: They're too shitty to be punk!
HORN: Well...I think they're straights posing as fag punk rockers. But what if they are? I'm a liberal, let's check out the Nuns...
Jean Encoule/Mike Horn tMx 17 10/04