I don't know about you, but the holidays always get me thinking about GG Allin. It was the Christmas Eve of 1991 that my roommate John and I wound up hanging out with a couple of British dudes–we'll call them Kevin and Steve–who were friends of John's bandmates. John was in a group called The Dimes at the time, and all of them but John leased apartments in a decrepit, converted Victorian on Denver's Capitol Hill, which was a somewhat edgy neighborhood back then. The Dimes always had transients and random punks wandering in and out of their building (which, since everyone knew each other, had an unspoken open-door policy). It was at The Dimes' place that we met Kevin and Steve, a couple of relatively polite, clean-cut guys who were in Colorado on holiday. U2's Achtung Baby had just come out, and Kevin and Steve couldn't understand why we–in the full bloom of grunge and looking like Mudhoney's haberdashers–didn't think U2 was the hippest band on the planet.
I mention our divergent tastes in music for a reason. On Christmas Eve, with nowhere particularly Christmas-y to go, we took Kevin and Steve to a seedy pool hall on West Colfax where Skynyrd ruled the jukebox and shots of Beam used human digestive tracts as mere shuttles from the bottle to the toilet bowl. Turns out, Kevin and Steve had dropped acid right before they met up with us, and by the time we skidded along snowy streets back to our apartment, they were fully tripping. It was then that John decided no Whiskey-and-LSD-Fueled Christmas Eve Of International Goodwill would be complete without some GG Allin.
[Here is where I would have embedded a particularly sick GG Allin video–had they not all been flagged as inappropriate by the upstanding users community of YouTube. So here's a photo instead.]
As every true American knows, GG Allin is one of our greatest, if perhaps least understood, national treasures, a man whose shit-smeared, crotch-rotted leather underpants will no doubt someday be enshrined–hopefully hermetically–in the Smithsonian. GG ranks right up there with Skrewdriver's Ian Stuart Donaldson and The Mentors' El Duce as one of punk's greatest supervillains, a man whose depraved songs, scatological stage antics, and appearances on Geraldo and Jerry Springer are mythic. Naturally it was GG's bittersweet ode to gonorrhea, "Needle Up My Cock," that served as his ideal introduction to two proper, psychedelically addled U2 fans. While John played "Needle" and translated the lyrics–"Pulled out my burning pecker and out came the pus / Though it hurt, I was devoured by lust"–I could see Kevin and Steve grow increasingly fidgety as they embarked on a long, bad, bugged-out trip. Imagine how the little kids on The Nightmare Before Christmas felt, times a million.
I just got GG Allin's new CD, Carnival Of Excess, which was recorded in 1991, two years before he died of a heroin overdose in his New York apartment after years of promises that he would commit suicide onstage. Rather than a punk record, though, it's a country one. And while David Allan Coe beat GG to the hate-country punch years before, Excess does have some compelling moments. Believe it or not, he pulls off a decent version of Warren Zevon's aching "Carmelita"–that is, if poorly sung, misanthropically lo-fi twang is your idea of an antidote to Carrie Underwood.
The rest of Excess serves more as a psychological study of a sociopath than, you know, good music. But what a jaw-dropping study it is: Amid his typical gross-outs and soundbites from self-congratulatory interviews, there's a clear and strong desire to play "real" songs and even reach out as a human being. I didn't know this back when I was arguing Achtung Baby with Kevin and Steve, but GG and Bono had one big thing in common: a messiah complex. Born Jesus Christ Allin, GG was raised by his Unabomber-like father to believe that an angel had marked GG for godlike greatness. "Son Of Evil" is Excess's creepiest track, and its most revelatory: "My daddy was a powerful soul back in 1956 / My mother was a virgin when she first felt his prick / Then on August 29th baby Jesus Christ was born / An alien to the world he was set out to destroy." Grunting over a remedial country instrumental, GG traces his path from savior to Satanist: "Lying on the floor in a pool of blood and cum / My demons lay beside me as I kissed them one by one / And on that day I met a force that nothing will compare / I was born the son of evil when I fucked the devil there."
Yes, GG was a sick sonofabitch, but I'm not sure that even Shakespeare birthed a more conflicted, tortured character. Most people don't know of GG, and he's a punchline to those who do–and the few folks who take him seriously are ones you'd probably want to avoid like, well, gonorrhea. But listening to Carnival Of Excess, I can't help but wonder what kind of inhuman torment mangled his soul, and how he actually held onto himself long enough to live to 36 and become a legend in the process. So during this jolly Christmastime, take a moment out of your busy personal misery to remember Jesus Christ "GG" Allin, a man who brought much joy, filth, pain, confusion, laughs, and bad trips to the world. Hallelujah, amen.