The Gun Club

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This article is about the band. For gun clubs generally, see Shooting range.
The Gun Club
Jeffrey Lee Pierce cropped.jpg
Jeffrey Lee Pierce, seen performing live with The Gun Club in 1985.
Background information
Also known as The Cyclones, the Creeping Ritual
Origin Los Angeles, California
Genres Post-punk, punk rock, psychobilly, cowpunk, punk blues
Years active 1979–1985, 1986-1994
Labels Ruby Records, Slash Records, Animal Records, Red Rhino Records, Fire Records, New Rose Records, Triple X Records
Associated acts Blondie, the Red Lights, the E-Types, the Individuals, Phast Phreddie & Thee Precisions, The Cyclones, Bags, 45 Grave, the Cramps, Der Stab, the Weirdos, Legal Weapon, Tav Falco's Panther Burns), Bush Tetras), the Johnnys, the Blasters, Fur Bible, the Sisters of Mercy, the Damned, the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Quartet, Clock DVA, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, World of Twist, Cypress Grove, Congo Norvell, Die Haut, Subway Sect, JoBoxers, Freeheat, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Earl Brutus, Tex & the Horseheads, Wayne Kramer, Pennywise
Past members Jeffrey Lee Pierce
Kid Congo Powers
Don Snowden
Brad Dunning
Terry Graham
Rob Ritter
Anna Statman
Ward Dotson
Billy Persons
Annie Ungar
Patricia Morrison
Jim Duckworth
Dee Pop
Jimmy Joe Uliana
Desi Desperate
Romi Mori
Nick Sanderson
Simon Fish
Rainer Lingk
Robert Marche
Efe
Mike Martt
Randy Bradbury
Brock Avery
Elisabeth Montague

The Gun Club were a post-punk/cowpunk band from Los Angeles, California that existed from 1979 to 1996. Led by flamboyant singer and guitarist Jeffrey Lee Pierce, they merged the contemporary genre of punk rock with the more traditional genres of rockabilly and country music.

Along with X, the Flesh Eaters and the Blasters, they are cited as a "tribal psychobilly blues" band.[1]

History[edit]

Early days (1979–1980)[edit]

The Gun Club were formed by Jeffrey Lee Pierce (guitar and vocals), former head of the Blondie fan club in Los Angeles and previously a member of the Red Lights, the E-Types, the Individuals, Phast Phreddie & Thee Precisions, and the Cyclones.[2]

The Gun Club's precursor band, The Creeping Ritual, formed in late 1979. Along with Pierce (lead vocals and guitar), the first lineup consisted of Brian Tristan (lead guitar), who was later renamed Kid Congo Powers during his stint with the Cramps; Don Snowden (bass), who was at the time a music critic for the Los Angeles Times; and Brad Dunning (drums), now a prominent designer and writer. In April 1980, they changed their name to the Gun Club on a suggestion by Pierce's roommate, Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris. Snowden and Dunning departed in June 1980, replaced by two ex-members of the Bags, Rob Ritter and Terry Graham, respectively. Ritter was temporarily replaced on bass by Anna Statman for two months in the fall of 1980. Tristan left next, to join the Cramps in November 1980, and was replaced by lead and slide guitarist Ward Dotson (ex-Der Stab). During this period, The Gun Club often opened for X, the Bags, Circle Jerks and the Blasters.

Fire of Love and Miami (1981–1982)[edit]

Securing a record deal with Ruby Records, a division of Slash, the group released their debut album, Fire of Love, on August 31, 1981. The album was produced by Tito Larriva (of The Plugz) and Chris D. (frontman of the Flesh Eaters]]). Critic Stevo Olende wrote that the "album's lyrical imagery is plundered from voodoo, '50's EC comics and the blues", while Thom Jurek of Allmusic noted that "nobody has heard music like this before or since".[3] Fire of Love sold well and received strong reviews upon release. Billy Persons of the Weirdos temporarily replaced Ritter for several shows in fall 1981.

In April 1982, the Gun Club signed to Blondie guitarist Chris Stein's Animal Records, a subsidiary of Chrysalis Records. The band temporarily relocated to New York City to record their follow-up album, 1982's Miami. This album featured not only Stein as producer, but Blondie's Debbie Harry singing backup vocals on several tracks. Ritter left in June 1982 to concentrate on his other band, 45 Grave, and changed his name to Rob Graves. Before leaving, Ritter taught all of his bass parts to his former Bags bandmate Patricia Morrison (also ex-Legal Weapon) and trained her as his replacement. For their West Coast shows in August 1982, Annie Ungar was added as a second guitarist. Upon the release of Miami on September 20, 1982, the album received good reviews but was widely criticized for Stein's thin production. Due to increasingly common arguments, Pierce dismissed Graham and Dotson in December 1982.

The Las Vegas Story and first break-up (1983–1985)[edit]

In January 1983, Graham and Dotson were replaced by guitarist Jim Duckworth (formerly of Tav Falco's Panther Burns) and drummer Dee Pop (formerly of the New York band Bush Tetras). Along with bassist Jimmy Joe Uliana, who filled in for Morrison, this lineup recorded the Death Party EP, released April 13, 1983 by Animal. During this time, Pierce refrained from playing guitar, focusing solely on singing. This lineup was very short-lived though; Pop lasted only eight months before Graham returned. On the eve of a September 1983 Australian tour, both Duckworth and Graham refused to get on the plane. Without a guitarist or drummer, Pierce asked drummer Billy Pommer Jr. and guitarist Spencer P. Jones from supporting act the Johnnys to fill in for the remainder of the tour, while Powers also returned on guitar. When they returned to the US in November, Graham resumed his place on drums.

Pierce returned to guitar playing during this lineup, and both he and Powers are credited with guitar on their third album, The Las Vegas Story (the Blasters' Dave Alvin also played lead guitar on a handful of tracks). Released on June 25, 1984, this album marked a significant change for the band; it represented a shift away from the punk rock of Fire of Love and Miami and a step towards a more polished, alternative rock sound. After US gigs supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees, the band embarked on a fall 1984 tour throughout Europe in support of the album, though Graham again departed during the tour at the end of October. In November, he was replaced with former roadie Peter Kablean, known as Desi Desperate. The band broke up in January 1985, with Pierce remaining in London with then-girlfriend Romi Mori.

During the break-up, Powers, Morrison, and Desperate formed a band called Fur Bible (Morrison later joined the Sisters of Mercy and the Damned), while Pierce embarked on a solo career. Pierce assembled a band, the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Quartet, consisting of former members of the Cure and Roxy Music, and released Wildweed in 1985. He organized a new band to tour in support of the album, including Mori on guitar and Nick Sanderson of Clock DVA on drums.

Reformation (1986–1994)[edit]

After a short stint doing spoken word performances, Pierce decided to reform a new version of the band in October 1986.[4] Powers, who had also been recruited into Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at this time, resumed his place at guitar, with Mori switching to bass and Sanderson retaining his spot on drums. This lineup of the Gun Club recorded a handful of albums, including Mother Juno, released October 19, 1987 on Red Rhino Records. This album, produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, was a successful comeback, garnering a positive critical reception. After the release of Nick Cave's album The Good Son, Powers departed the Bad Seeds in May 1990 to focus more on the Gun Club.

The band's fifth studio effort, Pastoral Hide and Seek, which Pierce produced himself, was released October 1, 1990 on the Fire label. Sanderson departed in December 1990 to focus on his other project, World of Twist. Desperate rejoined to record the Divinity album, released in August 1991 on New Rose Records, but the band were inactive during the remainder of that year as Pierce was hospitalized during his travels in India and Vietnam. Pierce also recorded with Cypress Grove.

Simon Fish, who had previously played with Pierce on one of his solo albums, joined the band in March 1992. At the conclusion of a European tour in May 1992, Powers left the band to focus on his other project, Congo Norvell. In February 1993, the band reconvened as a trio of Pierce, Mori and the returning Sanderson, to record the Lucky Jim album. For their spring 1993 European tour, they were joined by guitarist Rainer Lingk of Die Haut. Lucky Jim was released September 20, 1993 by Triple X Records, and Robert Marche (formerly of Subway Sect and JoBoxers) joined on guitar in October.

In May 1994, Mori and Pierce split up, and she and Sanderson left the Gun Club (Mori and Sanderson formed Freeheat in 1999 with Jim Reid and Ben Lurie of the Jesus and Mary Chain). Sanderson and Marche formed Earl Brutus. In the fall of 1994, Pierce put together a new lineup featuring Marche, bassist Efe and the returning Fish, lasting until November.

Final days (1995–1996)[edit]

An increasingly ill Pierce put together a penultimate Gun Club lineup for two shows in Los Angeles in August and September 1995, including guitarists Powers and Mike Martt (ex-Tex & the Horseheads), and the Wayne Kramer rhythm section of bassist Randy Bradbury and drummer Brock Avery. The final lineup of the Gun Club, with bassist Elisabeth Montague replacing Bradbury (who was touring with Pennywise), played only one show, the band's last, at The Palace in Hollywood on December 18, 1995.

On March 25, 1996, Pierce was found unconscious at his father's home in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was hospitalized and remained in a coma until his death from a brain hemorrhage on March 31, effectively ending the Gun Club.

Legacy[edit]

The White Stripes played "For the Love of Ivy" and "Jack on Fire"(both from Fire of Love) at live shows. That band's vocalist and guitarist, Jack White, said, "'Sex Beat', 'She's Like Heroin to Me', and 'For the Love of Ivy'...why are these songs not taught in schools?"[5]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • "Ghost on the Highway"/"Sex Beat" 7" single (1982, Beggars Banquet Records)
  • "Fire of Love" 7" single (1982, Animal Records)
  • Death Party 12" EP (1983, Animal Records)
  • Sex Beat 81 7" single (1986, Lolita)
  • "Breaking Hands" 7"/12" single (1988, Red Rhino Records)
  • "Sex Beat" CD single (1989, New Rose Records)
  • "The Great Divide" 7"/12" single (1990, New Rose Records)
  • "Pastoral, Hide & Seek (The Lost Song)" 7"/CD single (1991, New Rose Records)
  • "Cry to Me" 7" single (1993, Sympathy for the Record Industry)
  • "Walkin' With the Beast" 7" single (2004, Sympathy for the Record Industry)

Live albums[edit]

  • The Birth the Death the Ghost (1983, ABC Records; recorded 1980)
  • Sex Beat 81 (1984, Lolita; recorded 1981)
  • Love Supreme (1985, Offense Records; recorded 1982)
  • Danse Kalinda Boom - Live in Pandora's Box (1985, Megadisc; recorded 1984)
  • Death Party (1987, Revenge Records; recorded 1981-1982)
  • Ahmed's Wild Dream (1992, Solid Records; recorded 1992)
  • Live in Europe (1993, Triple X Records; recorded 1992)
  • Larger Than Live! (2008, Last Call Records; recorded 1990)
  • Destroy the Country (2014, Cleopatra Records; recorded 1983)
  • Moonlight Motel (2014, Cleopatra Records; recorded 1983-1984)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Two Sides of the Beast (1985, Dojo Records)
  • In Exile (1992, Triple X Records)
  • Early Warning (1997, Sympathy for the Record Industry)
  • Pastoral Hide & Seek/Divinity (1997, 2.13.61 Records)
  • Da Blood Done Signed My Name (2007, Castle Communications)
  • The Life and Times of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club box set (2008, Retro Deluxe)
  • Mother Berlin (2014, Bang! Records)

Compilation appearances[edit]

Live videos[edit]

  • Live at the Hacienda VHS (1994, Visionary Communications/Jettisoundz; recorded 1983)
  • Preaching the Blues VHS (1995, Visionary Communications/Jettisoundz; recorded 1984)
  • Live at the Hacienda 1983/84 DVD (2006, Cherry Red Films; recorded 1983-1984)
  • Fire of Love DVD (2007, Cherry Red Films; recorded 1983/1985)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sullivan, Denise. "The Gun Club". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  2. ^ http://www.fromthearchives.com/gc/chronology1.html
  3. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Fire of Love - The Gun Club". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  4. ^ http://www.fromthearchives.com/gc/chronology2.html
  5. ^ Owen Adams (July 18, 2007). "Why the White Stripes want to join the Gun Club". Guardian Music Blogs. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 

External links[edit]