Gulcher Records is releasing the Gynecologists CD, and is using the liner notes I wrote.
Or at least a version of them: here is the original in all of it's glory.
Of all the sick and sordid sagas to come floating out of the punk rock scene in isolated Indiana, none are more twisted than the ravings of Tommy Afterbirth and the band he founded in the late 1970's, the legendary Gynecologists.
This infamous band was the diseased brain child of their lead vocalist, a shambling hulk who had renamed himself and devised the sickest songs he could imagine to inflict upon the world at large.
The story begins in a small unnamed redneck town south of Indianapolis where Tommy grew up. Tommy's gateway drug to punk rock was his father's drive in movie theater, which, along with such prosaic family fare like Chitty Chitty Bang, thrilled the local yahoos with garish horror films and cheap psychedelic biker flicks during the sixties. From this Tommy learned to love the seedy underbelly of pop culture with a fixation that bordered on compulsive.
Tommy was an odd duck growing up. While he loved oddities in pop culture, he was also a fantastic athlete, even while wearing coke-bottom eyeglasses. He once showed me a newspaper clipping of him with Indiana basketball legend Steve Alford in a statewide basket ball free throw shooting contest. Steve won; Tommy finished second. He also was interested in politics, to the point where he was an actual delegate to the 1976 and 1980 Republican National Convention. One night over a copious amount of Jim Beam and Mr. Pibb (his drink of choice), he regaled me with how he twice shook hands with Ronald Reagan and also how at the 1976 GOP convention in Kansas City bought the first George Bush a Heineken in a little bar next to the Kemper Arena.
Tommy had an entrepreneurial spirit and opened a record store as a high school student. He already was passionate about rock and roll, and he naturally gravitated towards the Iggy Pop and the Stooges brand of musical mayhem. He befriended a cheesy heavy metal band called Stone Edge that ended up forming the genesis of the first version of the Gynecologists. The keyboardist, known now only as Wilbur, wore a robe ala Rick Wakeman but for the Gynecologists adopted “John Wilkes Booth” and picked up the guitar. While Stone Edge played mostly covers, they did have one original, a cruel put down song called “Dog Face.”
Tommy Afterbirth came up with the idea of recording and pressing the vilest gross-out novelty record EVER and corralled the members of Stone Edge to participate. The drummer and bassist also adopted pseudonyms of Milburn Drysdale and Simon Scrotum (Tommy says Simon was an insurance salesmen) and a local minister (!) named Rick befriended them with a reel-to-reel recorder that they set up in the back of a gas station in Paragon, Indiana. The minister also brought to the proceedings a synthesizer which provides such a bizarre sound on the opening cut. Tommy maintains he wrote and played that particular riff and who is here to deny it?
Tommy had already scribbled out some perverted lyrics about the Brady Bunch (you can hear him slurring through some verses) and the band quickly threw their musical weight behind them. “Dog Face” was already written and Tommy had already targeted Indiana native Jim Jones and child killer John Wayne Gacy for subject matter. The band quickly threw in what they could and they wrapped up the session.
Next came the graphics. With tender loving care, Tommy monitored the family dog and when it had deposited its daily duty, he took a picture of the biggest one. Add in the most grotesque flushing toilet sound for an opener, show the disguised band members in a photograph on the back and voila’ we have the first record in their catalogue, from Vomit Productions, we present you with “Sex Orgy With Brady Bunch” and 3 other tracks from your fun-loving band mates, the Gynecologists.
Tommy sent the vinyl EP around the world and responses soon came in. The New Yorker declined to review it, saying “There’s enough disgusting filth in the world already.” Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys wrote a letter of encouragement, saying he particularly liked the synthesizer sound; sadly years later those 2 letters ended up missing. Maximum Rock’n’Roll reviewed it and Tommy put a copy of the record on every table at a punk show in Crazy Al’s.
The next item on our carnival of sounds is the vinyl release “A Kinder, Gentler Nation” (title lifted from Heineken swilling George’s acceptance speech from the 1992 GOP convention speech). Here the time line gets complicated.
The vinyl was released in 1989 but 3 tracks were recorded much sooner, in early 1983 apparently, as part of an eleven song demo entitled “A Goat You Geek”. The cassette version of those tracks, hereafter referred to as “AGYG”, made a big impression on the author at the time as this line up of the Gynecologists were a much more straight forward kick ass punk rock band (anchored by a great bassist, Kid Death from Oregon; Milburn Drysdale and John Wilkes Booth also remained). The lead off track combines 2 of Tommy’s great obsessions, kinky copulation and Republican politics, and Tommy’s vocals were spot on; listen to him gleefully sing “Even Ed Meese got a piece!” on “Ron and Nancy”.
The 6 song ep has 3 tracks from “AGYG” alternating with 3 songs recorded sometime after 1984 at a basement in a furniture store on a Fostex Tape Deck owned by Milburn Drysdale. It was here that the only live performances by the Gynecologists occurred, also in the mid-eighties. Sparsely attended, they were noted for leg injuries occurring, fire extinguishers being set off, and Tommy waking up in a pool of his own vomit the next morning. I only wish I could have been there.
We now have the remaining 8 tracks from “AGYG” on our agenda. The majority of songs were made up on the spot and covered the gamut of subject matter near and dear to Tommy’s elephantine heart, including abortion, bestiality, TV personalities (“Gym Gerard”), and left-wingers (listen to him wail “Those traitors don’t even deserve a decent burial” on “Kent State”). Those who seek succor from politically correct song lyrics will find little sustenance here.
This recording session occurred because sound engineer and producer Guy Harbuck had met Tommy though a mutual acquaintance that had a love of slasher films, of which Tommy was the acknowledged expert. When Guy mentioned he had access to a studio, Tommy regaled him about his band. In Guy’s own words:
“Kerry said he had a band and he wanted to record some tunes. I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing. Kerry's intoxicant of choice was Jim Beam and valium, and I wasn't really sure if this band even existed. He would call me at odd hours of the night and slurringly tell me how great the band was and if I recorded them it would make rock history etc... I think I finally agreed to record them so Kerry would quit calling at 3:00 AM. All of the songs were done live. I don't think we did any overdubs. When Kerry was trying to convince me to record his band one of his bona fides was ‘I would have a drug taking contest with Jim Morrison.’ How could you forget that?”
And that was Tommy Afterbirth in a nutshell.
Oddly, with his love of Ronald Reagan, Tommy had no problem putting a picture of a woman being screwed by a dog and pasting Nancy’s picture on it. This was the cover for the demo of “AGYG” and the Gravel Voice label made cassette copies and distributed it far and wide. It was after hearing this release that I, as lead singer in a series of punk rock bands myself, looked up Tommy Afterbirth, who had moved to Bloomington and lived in a tiny apartment across a Putt Putt golf course. Here Tommy held court, his massive bulk occupying a green felt couch, expounding his philosophy amidst pizza boxes and whiskey bottles. The loud music he constantly blasted at high volume must have driven the neighbors up the wall. We became fast friends and I arranged for and attended the interview for Maxwell Malice’s magazine, reproduced here in the liner notes. I thought his ability to come up with off-the-cuff songs about current events and his bizarre melding of conservative politics and sick punk rock was pure original genius that could not be replicated and he deserved any attention he could get.
At around this time Tommy had developed a friendship with Malcolm from Eugene Oregon, who owned Vox Pop Records. He became a big supporter and helped circulate more Gynecologist recordings world wide. The original 45 was now a certified cult classic and collector’s item and fan mail came in from Japan, Australia, W. German, Italy, Great Britain, and even Moscow. The Gynecologists became bootlegged on Killed By Death #18 and Bloodstains Across the Midwest; we debated the artistic and financial merits of such activity as my band underwent the same treatment. Tommy was whole heartedly in favor; I was a bit more ambivalent. Hindsight shows he was surely correct.
I remember one night when Tommy was a disc jockey at a tiny volunteer radio called WQAX and he called me in a panic. He had misplaced his folder and notebook containing his ideas and song lyrics that he was working on, and was agitated that little old ladies from the Legion of Decency would get their hands on it and cause turmoil. Such an odd, conflicted character!
Through 1990 to 1994, drummer Milburn Drysdale also lived in Bloomington and had set up a recording studio in his house. Dave Death, Bob Tangleweed, Lumpy Repellant, Kevin D., Buster Hyman, and Frankie Camaro all played on the various remaining tracks on our disc, which first saw the light of day on a cassette only release “Auto-Erotica Ashphyxia & Various Moldy Turds”, once again highlighting the theme of scatology and weird sex that runs through the Gynecologists career. Another classic rock cover makes an appearance; how Tommy loved pop music of all colors.
Gulcher Records has gathered up a handful of unreleased tracks made during this time and so we now have a completed collection of the madness. The last recording took place in 1995, as it seems some of the joy began seeping out from writing and recording his anthems to debauchery and after 1995, more and more he turned his attention to booking bands at the local nightclubs and running his video store, the original Plan 9.
In 1999, Tommy suffered a debilitating stroke. His speech and movement are greatly impaired but his mighty punk rock heart still beats. He lives with a distant relative out of state now, and every so often, when the moon is full, he will be escorted to a rock and roll concert and imbibe a few Miller Lite brews, just like the good old days. He doesn’t have much to say to his fellow concert goers as he closes his eyes and enjoys the music, but if he could, he would be able to regale them about how, once upon a time, he was once one of the most notorious punk rock singers in history, a bizarre and flagrant individual who took no prisoners and gave no quarter, who chewed it up and spit it out, the mighty Tommy Afterbirth and his shocking, rocking Gynecologists. Believe or not!