Last month I was invited to an event at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. It had been a while since I last attended a rock’n’roll show, but I couldn’t say no to this one, as it was a live performance of the REPO MAN soundtrack – as far as I know, the first one ever. As you might expect, I enjoyed it: much more than I expected. The performances were great, and I was reminded what an excellent score the picture has – perhaps the best of all my films. Not that this has anything to do with me! The soundtrack is a sampler of the amazing energy, irony, and political astuteness of LA punk circa 1984.
The band leaders were Marc Capelle and Allyson Baker, who have apparently done this kinda thing before, under the shingle of the Red Room Orchestra. Their chosen location was superb – as you can see form the picture above, it features booths, boxes and balconies, demented quantities of gilt, and looks like it was built around the time Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford and other kindly benefactors of humanity decided to construct the transcontinental railroad. It is a fantastic venue in the middle of absolute destitution: the Tenderloin. I don’t spend a lot of time in our great cities, and one of the reasons is that it makes me sad to see so many homeless people living on the streets. The Tenderloin makes LA or Portland look insipid – it is a literal movie set of wretchedness, with addicts shooting up on the sidewalk, huffing crack on street corners, while poor people root through garbage cans, and the middle class dine in upscale restaurants watching them (or attend punk rock shows).
But enough of misery! Frolic, Hieronimo! Star of the show was Tito Larriva, co-composer of the original score. I hadn’t seen him in decades but recognised him instantly from afar due to his splendid posture and massive charisma, which bounces off the walls, irradiates the room, and obliges you to stamp your feet and sing. In addition to his theme song, La Bamba, Tito played Hombre Secreto, Flor de Mal, Reel Ten, and my favourite, which circulates through my system to this day, El Clavo y la Cruz.
Tito was far from alone. Joining the Orchestra was original cast member Zander Schloss, who recreated some of his immortal scenes from the film, including the “stop singing” incident, and entertained us with Feelin’ Seven Up, and the Circle Jerks’ popular lounge song, When the Shit Hits the Fan. Zander invited me on stage to tell some lies and recount the story of the Elks Lodge Hall police riot, which it turned out was instigated by Tito’s manager.
Don’t Zandy and I look like a pair of aged crypto salesmen? Give us your money and we’ll make it disappear … I mean reward you with Non-Fungible Punky Monkey Tokens! Zander was back from a year-long tour with the Jerks. They play very fast these days, and he said it felt good to slow down … a little bit. All the musicians seemed to have brought their favourite instruments. Listening to Tito and Zander discussing their axes, I felt like someone overhearing Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday perusing Buntline Specials and shotguns — especially when they were joined by Billy the Kid, in the form of Adam Dubov. Adam is another Repo veteran, who provided radio voices (“mysterious showers of tiny cubes of ice…”) and impersonated Elvis for Milk Cow Blues.
Needless to say, these veterans of the film itself were not alone. They were joined by a truly splendid Orchestra which played not only the rock’n’roll material, but also performed the “old style” songs which Harry Dean Stanton listened to on his car radio. Karina Deniké, Dina Macabbee, and Petra Haden performed Rhumboogie and TV Party, while Karina soloed See See Rider and Petra essayed Let’s Have A War.
And there were other notable contributers. Blag Dahlia of The Dwarves sang Iggy’s title song; you can see his performance here. And Eugene Robinson, lead singer of the band Buñuel, did a fine version of Sy Richardson’s song Bad Man. I am the author of the Bad Man lyrics, which are based on Sy’s dialogue in the film. Somehow this fact has eluded the rights authorities, but I’m sure BMI and ASCAP will be getting in touch any day now, to sort this out.
There were some veterans in the audience, too: among them producer Jonathan Wacks, musician Dan Wool (who refuses to play live), actors Tod Darling and Linda Jensen, and audio mixer Richard Beggs. But most of the crowd were authentic volunteers, who seemed to have a good time. Afterwards, Tito and Zander expressed a desire to do this again, in the City of Angels, where Repo Man was born. Tito modestly felt we should play the Hollywood Bowl. I called my friend Satya, who lives adjacent to the Bowl and knows about these things. He tells me it seats 200,000 people, and is booked up three years in advance. So maybe its’s not the venue for this year’s Fortieth Anniversary Repo Show.
But who knows? LA is still the home to some of the Repo crew, including Sy and Dick and Miguel and Del and ’em… Maybe Mike of the Suicidals still lives in Santa Monica, and would like to perform his chef-d’oeuvre, Institutionalized, with us. Where does Lee Ving live? Perhaps he can join us, for Let’s Have A War. And what of Iggy? I got an email from him only yesterday: he’s gigging in Chicago, and it’s snowing. Maybe he could come and gig with us in LA, where it never snows! Oh, wait…
Anyone with a decent LA venue is invited to get in touch. And you can do this too! Organize your own Repo Man show, and get the musicians to play some scenes (recommended are ‘stop singing’, and Miller’s and J. Frank’s speeches). Now that the US screenplay rights have reverted to me, you have my permission.