The following is an excerpt from the book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens by Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico. All photos by Ken Salerno.
Danzig/GWAR – April 9 1988
Randy Now: It was the first Danzig show ever. Glenn Danzig called me and said he wanted their first ever show to be in Jersey. I knew it wasn’t going to do good. I told him it wasn’t going to do good, but he was expecting 1,000 people. He gave me all the help he could to make it work, but it just didn’t. It was too far south of the whole Glenn Danzig/Lodi/North Jersey heavy metal/Misfits/WSOU zone. I had done Samhain a couple of times before, and that didn’t do so well, either. I think Danzig ended up with 400 people, which isn’t bad, but 400 people in a place that holds 1200…
Oderus Urungus (GWAR): That was Danzig’s first show. We were surprised there was such a low turnout.
Tony Rettman (City Gardens regular/author): I knew what was in store before GWAR played. My brother had their first record and they looked crazy. Those guys were nuts, and you had no idea what they were going to do. You heard rumblings of what their shows were like, and I had an idea of what it was going to be like, but I had no idea what it was really going to be like. A lot of time and effort went into those shows.
Oderus Urungus: We never would have gone to City Gardens as fans. It was a horrible place! I’m not even sure how we started playing there. I’d heard about the venue from other bands and called Randy up. That was one of the only times GWAR opened for somebody, but people had heard about GWAR. We opened up for Danzig at City Gardens and at the Ritz in New York the very next night, but after that we didn’t get a lot of calls to open for other bands. People heard that we were pouring shit all over the place and the shows were so fucking insane that nobody wanted to follow it. So, from the beginning, we got good crowds.
Randy Now: On the GWAR tour, the catch phrase was “pump and pay.” We were in a gas station in Montana, and it was like ten degrees below zero. For GWAR’s tours, they would go south in July and we’d all be sweating, and then we’d be in Canada and Montana in February. So, we’re in Montana, where you have to pump your own gas, and it’s three or four in the morning. This disembodied voice came over a loudspeaker and said, “Pump and pay.”
Oderus Urungus: Randy was one of the first huge supporters of GWAR, one of the first legitimate club owners that really backed us. I remember for the longest time when I was booking the band, Randy was my guy. He went out with us on the road, too. He wasn’t a bad road manager, but I think he missed his postal route too much...
Randy Now: No one had ever heard of GWAR before. I had actually met them in DC years before when they were called Death Piggy, opening for the Meatmen. They were ready to break up right before I booked them to play Trenton.
Ollie Grind (Crucial Youth): The only speeding ticket I ever got in my entire life was when I was driving to City Gardens to see Danzig. I’ll never forget it: April 9, 1988. I went with my friend who was a total Misfits guy. He even had the “devilock” down to the middle of his forehead. I guess we got too excited listening to Misfits songs, and I was driving, like, 70 miles per hour and got pulled over. The cop said, “It smells like dirt in your car. Are you guys transporting drugs?” I said, “Uh, I don’t even drink…” He was such a dick! No wonder everyone hates cops.
Eerie Von (Danzig/Samhain, bassist): When we did the first Danzig show, Samhain had been relatively popular, but not huge. In the beginning maybe 20 or 30 people would show up. Next time we came to town, maybe a few hundred would show up. But for that first Danzig show we had a tour manager, which was totally new for us. I made up these laminates, because we didn’t have any, and we needed something. That was our first big gig, and all of the sudden we really thought we were going to be rock stars. The difference from Samhain to the first Danzig show… that was a big move. We were lucky enough to do it at City Gardens.
Tony Rettman: GWAR opened for Danzig and fucking completely blew him away. But it seemed that nobody else in attendance knew what was going to happen [during GWAR’s set], and they really didn’t like it. All the skinheads were mad because they got fake blood all over their Fred Perry polo shirts. They were doing the whole “wall of death,” which I never understood. It was like that at every GWAR show: All the skinheads would get pissed off. I thought, “Don’t you fucking get it? Are you really this fucking stupid? Your shit is going to get messed up. If you know this, why do you keep coming to these shows?”
Ollie Grind: We got there, and I was so excited to see Danzig, and then GWAR comes on and I thought, “Who is this?” This crazy band comes out with costumes and blood, all this crazy shit, and it was so awesome. The other thing about GWAR was the hot chick on the stage. Dudes were trying to grab her, and she kicked them in the face!
Tony Rettman: At one point I was standing on that stairwell off to the side of the stage, and I had bought some new Nikes the day before. I got all this fake blood splattered on them, but I had already been planning on taking the sneakers back because they hurt my feet. I took them back and the lady opened the box, and there’s blood splattered all over them. She probably thought I had killed somebody and was trying to get rid of the evidence.
Ollie Grind: I wonder how many people went to that show with Misfits and Samhain shirts and got blood on them because they didn’t realize what was going on with GWAR?
Alex Franklin (City Gardens regular): I don’t even remember GWAR playing. I was there because I wanted to see Danzig play Misfits songs. Everybody was amped up to hear Misfits songs. I don’t think anybody gave a shit about his new songs.
Eerie Von: Usually you don’t want to go and play shows if you don’t have a record out, because nobody knows [the songs]. I don’t know why we got so big before we even had a record out. There could have been a bunch of publicity before that. It could have been that Glenn had a new band. A lot of it could have been The Misfits’ legacy. That happened a lot, and it used to piss Glenn off. We were doing Danzig, but people kept asking about The Misfits. It was a few years after they broke up, and he was like, “Where were you when we needed you?” All these magazines started paying attention to Danzig, but all they wanted to ask Glenn about was The Misfits.
Alex Franklin: Here’s the thing… You know Glenn Danzig portrays a particular kind of image. He’s got one video where, in every other scene, he’s flexing his muscles. He’s got this whole way of putting up his arm up and flexing. He was not in shape. He was wearing his leather pants and he had a gut. He couldn’t zipper his pants up, so his pants where unzipped and undone through the whole show.
Oderus Urungus: I do remember the crowd actually chanting “GWAR” during his set at one point. I’m sure that didn’t make him very happy.
Ollie Grind: Danzig opened with “Twist of Cain” that night, and they played a few old Misfits and Samhain songs, which we loved.
Alex Franklin: He was trying to play to the females in the crowd. The whole thing was so funny. He’s trying to act cool and act like Elvis, and his fucking pants are undone! He has this gut, and he’s wearing this tight shit, and looked ridiculous. And he never played any Misfits songs.
Steven DiLodovico: They played the hybrid version of “Twist of Cain” as well as “London Dungeon,” which made the entire night for me. I didn’t care what else they did. I had heard a Misfits song!
Eerie Von: One of the reasons we used to hang out after shows and sign autographs and take pictures was because if you didn’t meet people, you wouldn’t remember the gig. You go from one place to the next, and unless something happens, or unless there’s some kind of event during the show or after the show, you don’t even remember it. Especially after you start playing theaters and every one is kind of the same. You go from place to place to place, and you never really see anything. You just get up, play, and leave. We would stay in places for hours [talking to people]. We would go outside and hang around for hours. People would come around, and I would do my “act,” talk, make people laugh, hang out, sign stuff… We all did it. Chuck [Biscuits, Danzig drummer] wasn’t that big on it, because he didn’t feel like a “rock star.” I mean, he’s been playing since he was 12, so he wasn’t really that comfortable with all that. Sometimes he would just sit on the bus and we would pass things back to him to sign. Glenn still does it. He just has a little bit more security.
Bob Gorman (GWAR historian): I remember Bishop, our bass player, coming back with a lot of funny stories about Glenn. We had always idolized him. He mentioned how they were real rock stars and standoffish toward GWAR. He also said they didn’t like the [stage prop] dicks or anything like that.
Oderus Urungus: We were in the dressing room after the show, and Danzig came in with his girlfriend and his little posse. They all kinda stood in a perfect line behind him. His girlfriend, for some reason, picked up one of the slave cocks and like held it up. She was like, “Look at this!” Suddenly, all this jizz dripped out of it! It went all over her, and she’s screaming, “Eewww!” and dropped it. Danzig took one look at it, and turned his back on the room, and stormed out the door. A second later his whole posse did the same exact thing. I have never talked to Danzig since then.