Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell, who died 15 years ago today, left behind a legacy that is intrinsically tied to Long Beach and the rest of Orange County. This week's cover story pays tribute to the man who put Garden Grove on the map, who sang about the perils of date rape and invented the surf punk rock/reggae/ska hybrid that Southern California is now so famous for.
Marshall Goodman, Sublime's first drummer (he played on 40 Oz. to Freedom and co-wrote a few songs on the album), talks about working with Bradley Nowell when Sublime was just starting out.
Brad and I were going to Cal State Long Beach when I was in the band. I was in my second year of school and he was in his fourth or fifth. He was a finance major and we'd go to the same classes sometimes. [Our friendship had a whole other dimension], there was that whole element of being outside of music--our relationship was grounded in music, but we had discussions on history. I remember how excited we were that they created the History Channel when it first came out, in 1991.
I was the drummer of Sublime, I recorded 40 Oz. of Freedom, I also produced/co wrote "Doin' Time" and "What I Got." I brought my musical background to the band. I was really into jazz fusion and reggae and punk rock. I was a scratch DJ before I did drums, when I was 15. I recorded with Sublime when I was 19.
Then I decided to leave the band because I was in school and I was really functioning as a musician, I loved the art. But Brad started moving away from music as an art and got very involved in pharmaceuticals, and the music really started to suffer as far as our live performances went.
We sat down outside Eric Wilson's house in Belmont Shore on the curb when I was telling him I wanted to leave, and he asked, "Do you really want to leave? Because we're going to go somewhere," he said. And I replied, "Honestly I can't stand behind what you're doing. I can't sit and be involved in this. Everyone around you is just letting you dance around and be a fool and not help you. I can't be a part of that."
Even when I went back and recorded the self-titled record in Texas, people around him were supporting his habit, asking if he had clean needles, clean this or that. I got mad at them. That was always my role, because I always looked at Brad as a friend first.
40 Oz. of Freedom is what it is because we put our heart and soul into it. We played music genuinely. We had no record deal, no famous future. It was just people playing with our heart, doing what we loved doing. And it came out on that record, because people heard what we were saying and we were blessed that people liked what they heard.
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I understand how life and death is. But I understand that Brad is with me in spirit and there's not much I'd say to him now that I didn't say to him in life. His biggest legacy was his intellect.
Through that punk rock, little boy, adolescent tattoos, the man was a very caring, intelligent individual. He was able to comprehend most anything you talked to him about and able to communicate what he was thinking. He was able to do it through song. The man was very well read and very grounded, in tune with a lot of things. Not a lot of people know that.
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