GG Allin & The Holy Men – “You Give Love a Bad Name”

GG Allin’s Hated in the Nation was one of the first records I ever wrote about on Life in the Vinyl Lane, which is weird in that I’m not any kind of GG Allin fan or anything. But I had just watched the documentary Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies and I have to confess a long-standing fascination with the man as a performer and dirtbag.

Now, I’m not a psychic or anything. That being said, there are some things in life that are easy to predict. One of these is that if you’re (1) raised in a log cabin without running water or electricity and (2) your given name is Jesus Christ because your dad said Jesus told him you would be a Messiah-like man, you pretty much have no shot in life, or at least no shot of any kind of “normal” life. Look, I get it that a lot of people don’t want a normal life, and that’s cool; but with an upbringing like Allin’s he already had two strikes against him right out of the gate. He didn’t really have a choice.

What can I say about the man that hasn’t been said already before? Not much probably. He certainly seemed pretty batshit, what with the nude performances, pooping on stage (and subsequently smearing it on himself and throwing it at others), cutting, rolling in broken glass, excessive drinking, friendship with serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and widely acknowledged lack of personal hygiene, though having seen some of his interviews and such I sometimes wonder how much of it was real and how much was performance. Look, I have no doubt Allin had legitimate problems, and they almost certainly contributed in some ways to his behavior; but some of it seems like being shocking for the sake of being shocking.

In fact Allin received a court-ordered psychological evaluation in 1990 following his arrest for allegedly holding a female fane captive over a period of days while performing physically injurious and sexual acts on her, charges that eventually got him a year and a half in prison. The evaluator noted that “…Mr. Allin was courteous, cooperative, and candid…” and “…that he functions with at least average intelligence…” They further wrote that GG was able to have a reasonable and normal conversation, though “Affect was exaggerated, but not bizarre in a pathological sense.” I get the sense from this that he could have a perfectly normal conversation with you if he wanted. However, he was also pretty matter-of-fact about what he was into:

…Mr. Allin states his sexual performance is strictly heterosexual but he “enjoys doing kinky things: such as “being tied up by, crapped on and pissed on by women”. He states he enjoys self mutilatiuon on stage “because people suffer a lot int he world and this way I do it to myself and when I leave the stage I don’t have to suffer any more.”

While standardized psychological testing indicated that people with similar test scores to Allin are “…described as angry, hostile, individuals who may exhibit grandiosity and egocentricity”, ultimately he was not mentally ill in a legal sense of the word. “He is very comfortable in his chosen life-style and does not view his behavior as helpful to others.” You can read the entire two-page report HERE.

So why bring up GG again? Well, the other day I made my first visit to Seattle’s newest used record story, the fantastic Daybreak Records with its small but impressive inventory of reasonably priced gems, and one of the records on the display wall was GG Allin & The Holy Men’s You Give Love a Bad Name (they also had GG Allin & The Texas Nazis’ Boozing and Pranks, but I figured one GG record was enough for one day). I tried to resist the urge to buy it but ultimately figured that if nothing else it was good blog material, plus it was the early pressing on colored vinyl (edition of 2,000), so out came the credit card and into my trunk went GG Allin. (♥)

The entire album was rehearsed and recored in one session in May 1987 and released later that same year on vinyl, with CD and cassette re-releasees coming out in future years. To call it raw would be an understatement, and an incredulous engineer named Jaques Kralian actually asked during the recording session, “You guys aren’t planning on pressing this into a record, are you?” And I mean, I kind of get where Jaques was coming from. Six of the 10 songs have at least one profane word in the titles, and every track has profanity used liberally throughout the lyrics. If there’s a redeeming quality here it’s that they have GG’s voice up in the mix, and he is clearly enunciating his words… so he’s certainly getting his point across. The musicians, a group cobbled together specifically for this session, are actually halfway decent as a raw, heavy punk band. But it’s really all about Allin’s profane words. That being said, there are a pair of covers on You Give Love a Bad Name, a song called “Beer Picnic” by The Bad Tuna Experience (♣) and another called “Garbage Dump” by none other than Charles Manson, because why not Charles Manson.

It’s hard to believe Allin made it to the age of 36, succumbing to a heroin overdose in 1993. His funeral turned into a complete mess, though one I’m sure that Allin himself would have fully appreciated. He died like he lived. At least he was consistent.

Every time I play a GG Allin record I feel like I need a shower and should reconsider that whole religion thing specifically so I could go to confession and somehow have the stain his music left on my psyche washed away. But you know, sometimes the world is an ugly place, and our 1st Amendment rights mean that people like GG have the freedom to spew forth their art. It’s strictly up to us whether or not we want to listen to it. (♠) The bottom line for me is that I find him fascinating, a train wreck that I can’t turn away from, and a train wreck in progress that knows full well it’s a train wreck. It’s interesting to see how far limits can get pushed. GG Allin was the precursor to our era of reality TV, except, you know, with all the poop and stuff…

(♥) If you do buy a copy, make sure to check and see if the lyric insert is included. Not because you need to read these words… you don’t. But just to ensure it’s complete and you’re getting what you’re paying for.

(♣) Which, perhaps not surprisingly, is probably the best song on the album.

(♠) I don’t think society will ever get to the point where GG Allin songs will be played in sports arenas and supermarkets. At least I sure as hell hope not.

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