by JIM KNIPFEL
May 31, 2020
Mr. Allin’s Opus
Here’s a bit of trivia. As I quietly noted the approach of the thirty-third anniversary of this column—I’ve spent sixty percent of my life writing this thing—I remembered that over all these years, “Slackjaw” has boasted one and only one guest columnist. How that came about, exactly, takes a bit of telling.
Back in 1990, the notorious, self-destructive and kooky punk rock icon G. G. Allin was serving one-to-four in a Michigan penitentiary after being convicted on felonious assault charges.(If you aren’t familiar with Allin, I recommend you check out some online videos before proceeding.)
Violent, scary, and foul-smelling as he was, G.G., it must be admitted, was a very nice and friendly fellow. He was also kind of a self-serious dunderhead. Still, back then I admired the hell out of a performer who made it a regular part of his act to shit, puke, masturbate, and cut himself all to hell onstage, randomly attack audience and band members, and shove microphones up his ass. My academic pretensions at the time even had me investing him with a profound philosophical significance he likely didn’t deserve. This was a man, after all, whose musical output included perennial toe-tappers like “Expose Yourself to Kids,” “Suck My Ass It Smells,” “Bite It You Scum,” and “Needle Up My Cock.” But whatever, I was young, and in the Eighties G.G. made the rest of the tough-talking types in the hardcore scene look like a bunch of prissy little Mary-Anns.
I’d met G.G. a few times before his incarceration. He’d crashed at my apartment in Minneapolis for a few days in 1986, and on one fateful evening I even pretended to play bass in one of his pickup backing bands for what turned out to be an outrageously violent show at the 7th St Entry. So after he was thrown in stir, and maybe because I was one of the few literate people he knew, he fingered me to be his erstwhile press secretary. This meant I wrote and sent out press releases, set up prison interviews, planted my own interviews with him in magazines like B-Side, and dealt with a few underground record labels on his behalf.
Allin had been sentenced in December of 1989, and shortly after his arrival in prison, found himself in AA, NA, and psychotherapy. He told me that while he missed whiskey and drugs, he also liked waking up without a hangover and thinking more clearly. He found himself busier in prison than he ever had been on the outside. He was painting, doing interviews, and had a bunch of new records coming out, including the re-release of his entire back catalog.
At the time I was living in Philly and writing for The Welcomat. I forget why, but in that spring of 1990, I was going to be out of town for a week. Considering the date, I suspect that’s when my future ex-wife and I went to Chicago to make a few wedding arrangements. “Slackjaw” was still a relatively young column, but it had been getting some attention. I didn’t want to leave that page of the paper empty in my absence, so had an idea that would ensure the column would continue to get a little attention while I was away. I was in regular contact with G. G. both by phone and by mail, so what the hell? After clearing it with my editor Derek Davis—lord knows I’d made enough passing references to Allin in the column—I asked G.G. if he cared to fill in for me one week.
Not surprisingly, he agreed. While he’d done plenty of interviews and written plenty of songs that laid out his worldview, I don’t think he’d ever taken the time to sit down to try and present a cohesive, well-thought-out overview of his working philosophy. Better still, running it in a reasonably mainstream publication instead of some ratty little Xeroxed fanzine, would allow him to shove his ideas down the throats of an estimated one hundred-fifty thousand people who had never heard of him before. And from my perspective, shit, it was pretty cool back then to think Allin was the only person out there who could viably play Slackjaw for a week. I gave him the general parameters of the column (which amounted to a word count and nothing more), and let him be.
About a week later I found a business envelope with a familiar return address waiting in the mailbox. Also familiar was the sketch he always made on the back of the envelope. While G.G.’s primitive homemade tattoos included the usual tedious array of skulls, tombstones, fists holding bloody knives, “Born to Die” and the like, when left to his own imagination, Allin drew . . . fantasy characters. Usually bare-breasted nymphs with enormous wings, drawn in colored pencil. It was very strange, an oddly touching glimpse beneath the “Public Animal No. 1” persona.
Inside the envelope were two pages torn from a legal pad. G.G.’s handwriting was an odd blend of cursive and block letters, but perfectly legible. There were no paragraph breaks and myriad misspellings, and a few other formatting issues, but those were easy enough to clean up once I sat down and started transcribing. Apart from those technicalities, I didn’t touch a word.
The next day I walked over to the paper’s offices to drop the column off with Derek, bringing the handwritten manifesto and envelope along with me to prove its veracity. Here’s the text of G.G Allin’s “Slackjaw” column:
If you believe in the real underground of Rock 'N' Roll,
then now is the time to do something about it. The time is
now to overthrow the current situations and declare war on
the record companies, radio stations, publications, clubs,
and anyone who promotes the whole so called "scene" as it
now stands. We need to destroy it all and take it back from
the corporate phonies and conformists. But action must be
taken now and blood must be spilled.
First let me tell you who I am. I was born Jesus Christ Allin in 1956 in Lancaster, NH. The Jesus Christ they preach about in the
Bible is a phony imposter - just a crutch for the cripples
to lean on. Fuck that weak shit! I am the man to deal with.
I created myself inside the womb from the fires of Hell.
There are no separations between Jesus Christ, God and the
Devil, because I am all of them. I am here to take Rock 'N'
Roll back & prove to the world that I am the real king through the powers
I have acquired.
When I was born in 1956, Rock 'N' Roll first started taking off. Why do you think that was? Because I created it. I created Elvis. I made it all happen. Even before I was born I was plotting. But
through the years everyone has let it all go. That's why I
am ready to take it all back. Nobody has held on. Nobody has
had the endurance to finish what they were set out to
fucking do. They all let me down or I took their lives for a
purpose. I was the one who was throwing all the monkey
wrenches into the gears. But money and commercialism made
them all sell out. Even Iggy let me down. The Sex Pistols
let me down. Sid let me down when he fell in love (that's
why they are all dead). And now we have the Ramones praising bands like Guns N' Roses, which runs against everything they were set out to destroy. Now is the time for the final bloody mutilation. Time to get Rock 'N'
Roll out of the hands of the masses and back to the people
who will not accept comfort or conformity at any cost. Then I will commit suicide on stage and the blood of Rock 'N' Roll will become the poison of the Universe forever.
Take a look around and see what’s happening. Spineless record companies kissing the mainstream’s ass, being pressured by the money media and politicians. So called cutting edge radio stations as fucking lame as the stations they oppose. Censorship publications
kissing the monkey suits’ asses, who in turn,
are kissing someone else's ass. Even so called "underground"
publications have no fucking desire to get blood on their
hands. They are too busy crying about how we can make the
world a more wonderful place and how politically correct
they can be. Talk is fucking cheap. It's time to fight. It's
time for revenge. We need to overthrow Rock 'N' Roll as it
now stands. We must bring down record companies by not
buying their products. A boycott. If you have to have a
record, steal it. That way they won’t get your money. We've
got to stop feeding them. Your support must now go to me -
GG Allin, the commanding leader and terrorist of Rock 'N'
Roll. Why do you think I am in prison right now? Because
they know who I am and they fear my reality. Our society
wants to stop my mission. They want to brain wash you and
keep you locked into MTV, and their stagnating, safe worlds.
It's a plot to kill Rock 'N' Roll. I am the savior. That’s
why I am considered a threat to society. This is what you
should do: Go to your record store and buy all the GG ALLIN
recordings you can find. If they don’t have any in stock,
tell them to order some. If they refuse, then do what you
have to do. Call radio stations and demand GG Allin. Spray
paint "GG ALLIN" everywhere. Make them aware that the
disease and the Scumfuc tradition is still spreading. Write
"GG ALLIN" on all your dollar bills. Any bills you have.
People do not throw money away, so it would be a free way to
get the message out. You must do it every day of your life.
We must live for the Rock 'N' Roll underground. It CAN be dark and dangerous again. It CAN be threatening to our society as it was meant to be. IT MUST BE UNCOMPROMISING. And with me as your leader, it will happen.
I am ready to lead you, my allies, into the real Rock 'N' Roll underground. Let's get started.
Yes, well. I don’t recall what I thought at the time. I guess it was pretty much what I expected. I think what surprised me most was how coherent it was, at least when compared with his sloppy, wild-eyed stage persona. Who would’ve guessed he could use words like “acquired” and “conformity”? I read it again now and think, “yes, well.” He was indeed a silly goon, sorely lacking anything resembling a sense of humor. But three decades after the fact, I’m not going to inflict a line-by-line critique of Mr. Allin’s essay in literary, cultural or philosophical terms. You can do that yourself if you like. I still think it was pretty cool to have him write that guest column.
G.G. Allin’s “Slackjaw” ran in The Welcomat the last week of April. My usual artist, Bob Hires, provided an illustration inspired by one of Salvador Dali’s Crucifixions. Over the next few weeks, the column received the expected response from Allin’s acolytes, detractors, and the merely confused. But that wasn’t the end of it.
G.G. was thrilled beyond reason he was able to get his message out to so many people in, again, a reasonably mainstream publication. He was also thrilled beyond all reason to receive a check for thirty-five dollars for his efforts. And as someone who had never put his ideas down on paper like that before, he was apparently quite proud of his work. A month or so after it appeared in The Welcomat, he got in touch and asked if I could send a copy to an underground record label that was about to release a single of Allin performing solo acoustic versions of The Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita,” recorded in his jail cell. He wanted the manifesto included as an insert with the single, and the record company was happy to oblige. Soon thereafter the manifesto, or whatever he wanted to call it, began cropping up in punk fanzines, sometimes with minor edits or additions. NYC-based underground filmmaker Nick Zedd, whose low-budget films were known for their deliberately shocking content and anti-social message, was so incensed by the article for some reason that he responded with a long screed attacking the essay and Allin both, arguing Allin was stupid to put that much faith in something as silly as rock’n’roll. Zedd’s piece was published in the respected literary journal, The Portable Lower East Side.
Go online today and you can find Allin’s essay reproduced (again with a few modifications and updates) on countless sites. It’s become a fundamental bit of G.G. lore, a concise statement of his core philosophy. G.G. himself would quote it verbatim in interviews for the rest of his life. But none of these people who post it and talk about it ever get the original publication date right, with most claiming it was written in 1991 or ’92. None of them seen to be aware it began life in the pages of Philly’s Welcomat as the one and only guest “Slackjaw” column, nor that the original, handwritten draft now rests safely in my files with the rest of my G.G. correspondence.
Allin himself apparently let that “Slackjaw” get the better of him, and while still in prison he began to write other essays and a book, the latter of which was eventually published as My Prison Walls.
G.G. was paroled in 1991, having served roughly eighteen months. He moved to New York, teamed up with his older brother Merle, and together they formed a new band, The Murder Junkies. After vowing for years (as he mentions here) that he planned to kill himself on stage, Allin instead died of a heroin overdose following one last, wholly miserable show at The Gas Station in the East Village in June of 1993. He was thirty-six.
I assumed Allin would be forgotten pretty quickly after his death, existing today as little more than a minor footnote in the Encyclopedia of Rock’n’Roll Anomalies. I was mistaken. G.G. has become a legend eclipsing the likes of Sid Vicious and Darby Crash. Far more post-mortem G.G. Allin albums have been released than ever came out in his lifetime. He’s inspired several books, is considered a religious figure by some, has more fans now than he ever had when he was alive, and—do I even need to point this out?—he’s fucking huge in France.
Which leaves me wondering.
Had he lived, he would’ve turned sixty-four this August. So what would a sixty-four-year-old Allin be doing today? Would he still be flopping around on stage like a bored orangutan as the third-billed act in one of those pre-packaged punk rock nostalgia tours, together with Circle Jerks, Agent Orange and Agnostic Front? Would he be a greeter at Walmart? Or would he be serving his second term as governor of New Hampshire?
It also leaves me wondering just how much I could rake in if I posted that original draft of the manifesto on eBay.
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