It was 1978, and something had to be done. In Jonestown, we witnessed the largest mass suicide in over 1900 years. A federal emergency of toxic waste was declared at Love Canal. The price of gas soared to 63 cents per gallon. Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice won the coveted Bookseller/Diagram Prize.
Surely, something had to be done.
AND SO out of this twisted epoch The Symptoms flared, their time come round at last, oozing and popping into the shadowy corners of the San Francisco Punk Rock landscape. The four original members (Lester Stress, Bobby Imsolucki, Rocky Graham and Nosmo King) fermented, like the cells of a test tube baby, and congealed into the groundbreaking band that worried and confused the pink-Mohawked, pierced-nippled, coke-addled SF scene at the height of its heyday.
Originally diagnosed as Crispy Baby, the band hit the stage at the North Beach punk nexus, Mabuhay Gardens, for a show with The Readymades, dressed in red union suits to the delight of MC, Dirk Dirkson. They quickly devolved into The Symptoms, and for four years appeared, union suits retired, with seminal bands including the Dead Kennedys, The Avengers, The Contractions, The Mutants, Los Microwaves and Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. In those days The Symptoms were everywhere… there was no escape.
Perhaps it’s a strange and cynical thought that, over time, into the vastness of a new millennium, things are not so different; things are only more so. It’s 2008. There is torture in Guantanamo. The glaciers are melting. The price of gas is over $4.00 per gallon. The latest winner of The Bookseller/Diagram prize is If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs.
Surely, once again, something has to be done. Listen. This is music that will make you think and twitch at the same time.
Research into Current Symptoms
Analysis of an Infection
The first indication that something potentially terminal had arrived came in 1978, when four men dressed in red union suits spread to the stage of San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens. Initial diagnosis eliminated Monkeypox, Rhinovirus and Flu. The cluster was identified by the concerned Master of Ceremonies, Dirk Dirkson, as “Crispy Baby.”
Dissected, the band revealed four distinct individual genetic variations: Lester Stress, Bobby Imsolucki, Rocky Graham and Nosmo King. Within months the band had mutated into the more serious syndrome known simply as, “The Symptoms.”
The SF punk rock scene provided fertile breeding grounds for the noise-borne virus to spread. Passed aggressively via shared stage space with seminal carriers including Dead Kennedys, The Avengers, The Contractions, The Mutants, Los Microwaves and Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. The Symptoms played with the Go-Gos at the Whiskey in Los Angeles. A new transmission vehicle was discovered; vinyl, via inclusion on Howie Klein’s 415 Music compilation. The single, Be On Top/Anorexia Nervosa was recklessly embraced by college radio nationwide.
• “Like a rash broken out on stage.” (BAM Magazine)
• “A band that derives its sound from many sources but copies no one.” (Trouser Press)
• “Better than average.” (fan in Chico)
• The Symptoms were everywhere. It seemed epidemic was unavoidable.
When the band inexplicably disbanded in 1982, the fever broke and remained dormant for more than 20 years. A benign maturation stupor set in, and the rhythm of life normalized through the establishment of widespread marriage, children and 9-5 jobs. Much to the relief of the research community, there was every reason to believe that the crisis was over. If careful attention had been paid, the 2006 reunion in Woodstock, Vermont with Los Microwaves may have signaled cause for concern, but The Symptoms case files were closed and the event was discredited as a mere fluke.
Seemingly overnight, The Symptoms, Relapse, is in full distribution with a new mutation including Steve Kirk on guitar. There is no way to predict what this might mean. Take caution. Use tissue. Wash your hands. Be sure to tell the people you love that you love them...