No matter how scathing a review of a record is in print, it?s nothing compared to what critics at the Rat did to bands they hated.
Joe Queer, leader of the veteran pop-punk unit The Queers ? still going strong after 25 years ? remembers the gritty old Boston club fondly.
?When I started at the Rat, I saw bands getting bottles thrown at ?em,? laughs Joe, whose real last name is King. ?I saw bands get punched on the way out the back door with their gear ?cause they sucked so bad. I mean, that was an instant review, like, ?Don?t quit your f**king day job pal. You suck? ... I?ve seen people walk on stage and just unplug the amps and then the guys in the band would look at him and then the other dude would say, ?You want to do something about it? F**k you.? I guess the set?s over.?
Long gone now, the Rat, for all its violence and mayhem, was an institution on the East Coast punk scene. Joe remembers seeing The Police play there circa 1978 before 47 people and engaging in some less-than-legal activities outside the venue with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers.
?They were very nice guys, wicked cool,? says Joe.
It was also the place where the notorious GG Allin held court in his own grotesque, uniquely confrontational style ? rolling around in feces, mutilating himself, threatening to commit suicide on stage and performing naked before dying of a heroin overdose in 1993. He could get away with it. Today?s acts might not fare so well in a similar environment.
?Maybe I?m just jaded, but that?s where I came from,? says Joe. ?You watched your ass back then. You get on stage prancing around, like say the lead singer of AFI, you know he?s sweet ? (adopting a mock accent), ?I always wear my mother?s makeup.? Cool, I love ya, you know what I mean? But if you pulled that shit at the Rat, you had some balls. But then there was GG Allin who didn?t think anything of walking around in fishnets and high heels, but he had his reputation, so we all loved GG.?
Joe Queer has a million stories to tell from his time on the road. A lot of them will probably make the autobiography he?s planning to write, which will include stories on his own personal drug hell.
?Yeah, I?m not quite sure of the title. I?m either going with ?Way Past Pot? ? which is when I was in the depths of my heroin addiction, my mom one day, God love her, came up and she just goes, ?Are you on pot?? and I was like, ?You?d better call the ambulance ?cause I?m way past pot.' Or I was thinking a good name would be ?Get Out of the Van,? you know like the Henry Rollins book. I?ve kicked so many people out, I thought ?Get Out of the Van? would be more poignant.?
The book is a ways off. For right now, Joe and the boys, often mistakenly lumped in with queer-core acts like Pansy Division, are basking in the afterglow of a career-spanning DVD and a new album, Munki Brain, which, along with the usual adolescent, hooks-aplenty, melodic punk anthems and surf guitar rave-ups (?Duke Kahanamoku?), shows Joe moving towards classic, Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys? pop with the aptly titled ?Brian Wilson? and ?I Think She?s Starting To Like Me.?
Does that mean the critics are going to start taking him seriously?
?Nah. We set ourselves up for that by calling ourselves the Queers,? says Joe. ?And you can?t take a band called the Queers seriously. I read some reviews of the new album and I can tell people didn?t really listen to it, ?cause they?re like, ?It?s another classic Queers album, but they don?t really stretch out and go into any new territory,? but anybody who knows the Queers will know we did.?
And anybody who knows the Queers understa