What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz Ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.
On the grill
Who are you
As someone who’s been trying to make a living writing books these past 16 years, I’m angry, paranoid, defensive, and aggressive at the same time, highly delusional, financially embarrassed, and crazier than Ted Cruz on Pride Day. I probably shouldn’t have decided to make drunks, punks, junkies, and whores the sole focus of my endeavours, but it seems a little late to switch it up now. Besides, you could fit what I know about everything else into a hamster’s hatbox. All this notwithstanding, I’m currently seeking publicity for my new rock biography, Under the Kilt: The Real McKenzies Exposed. With luck, I’ll scrape up enough cash for a decent spray-painting campaign.
Christ, it was so long ago that I’m starting to think it was Robert Johnson or Buddy Holly, but I’m not quite that fucking old. Actually, the first rock band I saw played at my elementary school in Winnipeg when I was 10 and they scared the living hell out of me, I shit you not. The distorted guitars that boomed from those cheap amplifiers sounded so evil and monstrous that I instantly fell in love, addicted for the rest of my days to pounding drums, louder guitars, and squalling feedback most raunchy and wild. PS: the band, whose name I never did learn, covered “Smoke on the Water”, which was brand new at the time.
That would be Teenage Head at the St. Vital Hotel in Winnipeg, 1978. Punk was just starting to appear in my hometown at the time and I didn’t know anything at all about Teenage Head; my only intention was to guzzle cheap draft and hit on chicks with whom I had absolutely no chance. In fact, I was trying to pick up a brunette who wanted me to vanish when the band came on and changed my life forever. These lunatics had no dry ice, no keyboards, no satin jumpsuits, and instead of boring drums solos and operatic vocals, they had supercharged guitars, a cutthroat disposition, more general awesomeness than I’d ever seen in my entire life, and a hyperactive frontman who was obviously from Mars. Even the locals who populated the bar were dumbstruck by the intensity and power of Teenage Head, the likes of which none of us had ever seen. The knuckledraggers finally rallied to start a lame fight, but their feeble punches were inconsequential compared to the vicious body blows the band was delivering. Teenage Head was a fucking hurricane and they punched the shit out of everyone, goons and fledgling punk rockers alike. I walked home alone that night, but it didn’t even matter. I have not been the same.
Top three records
Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power For me, Raw Power by Iggy Pop and the Stooges picked up where Alice Cooper left off. I first heard the album while drinking pilfered rum with friends in a dusty attic. Much the way that first rock band filled me with a nameless but delicious terror, Raw Power also evoked those same powerful emotions, and I instantly decided that Iggy was the new sheriff in town. I actually heard Raw Power an unknown number of times that day because the record player was on the third floor and we were too drunk and lazy to climb down and change it. After I saw Teenage Head later that year, I understood intuitively that Iggy had influenced them almost as much as the Ramones had. To this day, I can’t decide if I like Raw Power more than I like Funhouse. They both have huge appeal to me.
Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols Most punk rockers claim Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols as the album that showed them the way, and I must also add myself to that long list. A friend received the record as a joke Christmas present from his sister, who thought he’d hate it. She was wrong, however, but I loved Bollocks a little more than my friends did, playing it nonstop until a fight erupted and the album was broken. Not that it mattered. I bought my own copy and began attending local punk shows not long afterwards. Those bands were hardly the Sex Pistols, but I loved the idea that untalented kids my age could make so much noise. I still love Bollocks even though my girl and I usually play it only at Christmas. For us, Christmas will always be about the Sex Pistols.
The Damned Machine Gun Etiquette Machine Gun Etiquette by the Damned is another album that made a lasting impression, and I will never forget the jarring CLUNK noise the 8-track player made halfway through my favourite songs. While not necessarily the best album the Damned ever made, songs such as “Melody Lee”, “Love Song”, and “Smash It Up” will always take me back to a place in time when the girls resisted my advances less strenuously and all I wanted was a fridge full of beer and a handful of weed. While a larger number of boomers might cite Escape by Journey as their most beloved album, I much prefer the gentle croonings of Dave Vanian and company.
All-time favourite video
Videos weren’t really a thing when I was coming up. In fact, I’m so old that I still remember that ridiculous “We’re Not Gonna Take It” Twisted Sister farce when I think about videos, which is almost never. Because there we no videos when I was a kid, we had to promote bands by carrying them 10 miles to school each day, uphill both ways in the snow. Now stop looking at me funny or I’ll chase you up a Jell-O tree and throw lawn darts at your head.
What’s in your fridge
Abandoned food. Since I don’t do much cooking, the fridge is mostly a place where I keep coffee cream and various lunch foodstuffs. There will generally be a tomato in the vegetable drawer that was fresh back when Rolling Stone still had a smidgen of journalistic integrity, a sandwich ingredient that was probably abandoned for less wholesome options such as hot dogs and Krappy Dinner. I have long since ditched the liquor and drugs, but other habits are harder to break.
Amaranth flour. Back at the left rear corner, all but undisturbed by human hand, sits a one-pound plastic bag of whole-grain amaranth flour. I asked my girl about it several years ago and offered to throw it out, but she became so hostile that I elected to leave the flour alone until time eternal. When the mighty cities crumble and our mangled fridge sits atop a pile of twisted debris, that amaranth flour will still be inside, waiting for my girl to concoct some vegan delight with the texture and flavour of Charlie Sheen’s boxer shorts. In all fairness, she is a very good cook and I probably would have died from malnutrition were it not for her ongoing efforts. Don’t stop now, baby.
Sludge. By far the scariest thing in our fridge is not in plain view for all to see. While I am in charge of cleaning and do a reasonably good job of it, I concentrate my energies on visible surfaces and tend to ignore messes that are not blatantly obvious. In this case, it is the disgusting collection of rotting food, strange and toxic moulds, unidentified bug legs, and assorted condiment spills that together form a sludge capable either of wiping out mankind or curing cancer. I don’t intend to find out which that might be, and I hereby absolve myself of all responsibility if a close cousin of the Blob begins terrorizing East Vancouver. Hey, I warned you, didn’t I?
Chris Walter's latest book is titled Under the Kilt: the Real McKenzies Exposed. He insisted we add this to his Fridge article: "Buy my Real McKenzies biography at www.punkbooks.com or I’ll show up unannounced at your house for supper. I’ll bring some amaranth flour."