Among the best songs to come out of the 1980s cowpunk scene was the Beat Farmers’ “Gun Sale at the Church.”
Well let’s pack up the kids and take a break, get away
Leave the hustle and bustle of living from day to day
And I know that the crime in the city is-a getting worse
So we’re going on down to the gun sale at the church
Written by Buddy Blue, the guitarist-singer-songwriter and founding member of San Diego’s Beat Farmers along with Jerry Raney and Country Dick Montana, “Gun Sale at the Church” was funny and outrageous when it was released on the Van Go album in 1986. Here is the band performing it live:
Times certainly have changed. Remember the scene from 2002’s Bowling for Columbine where Michael Moore hoists the free rifle one received for opening a new account at a Michigan bank? Today’s gun culture probably has churches in some parts of the country deemed radical if they do not host firearm flea markets.
At least the late, great Blue–a longtime OC Weekly contributor, genuine character and one-time music editor under the byline Buddy Seigal–can rest assured in that Great Greasy Honky Tonk in the Sky that “Gun Sale at the Church” inspired a future performer. The evidence: “Studio Apartment Blues” on Long Beach country-rocker John Surge’s new Twang City album Your Wonderful Life.
Surge, whose storytelling on the new recording is rooted in Los Angeles’ Paisley Underground scene of the early 1980s, set against a sonic melange of that era’s cowpunk along with early rock ‘n’ roll and the classic Bakersfield sound, calls “Studio Apartment Blues” an updated version of “Gun Sale at the Church.”
No place to call home
Nothing left to lose
I’m all alone
With the studio apartment blues
“I’ve rediscovered my love for the seminal bands I spent many nights seeing in small LA clubs, and I’m taking renewed inspiration from how great they were,” says Surge, who also cites the likes of Rank and File, the Long Ryders and Lone Justice. “In my own small way, I want to carry on and honor that LA roots tradition.”
Having known the artist born Bernard Robert Seigal pretty well, I suspect he’d forgive being lumped in with contemporaries up the 5 freeway in Los Angeles. The Beat Farmers did often play in LA, after all. (As did Seigal’s jump blues outfit The Buddy Blue Band.)
Surge began recording Your Wonderful Life at the Sonic Boom Room in Venice. The producer/engineer is Kevin Jarvis, the brother of the late Duane Jarvis, a guitar slinger and singer-songwriter who worked with everyone from Frank Black, Peter Case and Rosie Flores to John Prine, Lucinda Williams and Dwight Yoakam.
Among the LA roots community players who turn up on the album are pedal steel guitarist Marty Rifkin (Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars), bass player Steve Nelson (Pete Anderson), harmony singer KP Hawthorn (Calico, the HawtThorns) and keyboardist Carl Byron (Anne McCue, Jim Lauderdale).
Here’s the recently released video for the album’s title track:
On Sunday, two days after Your Wonderful Life is released, John Surge and the Haymakers perform at The Offbeat, 6316 York Blvd., Los Angeles, with Double EE and Bad Business. Doors open at 5 p.m. The band also has upcoming shows in Tarzana; visit johnsurge.com/shows for details.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.