The new issue of the Detroit Metro Times has a pretty good feature on John Brannon, the former lead singer of the band the Laughing Heyenas. While he’s likely more famous for his earlier band – the seminal hardcore group Negative Approach – I was never that into their music. The Laughing Heyenas, however, were incredible. I think I saw them play my first week in Ann Arbor, along with David Yow’s band Jesus Lizard, and I was blown away. I’ll spare you my fanboy fawning, but I did want to pass along this one clip from the story. It’s not the most titillating part of the article, which deals largely with Brandon’s addictions and the friends that he’s lost along the way, but it, unlike the other stuff, was news to me… Here it is:
…Just after forming, John Brannon, plus other members of Negative Approach, fellow local hardcore band the Necros and Washington, D.C., pioneers Minor Threat, found themselves on Saturday Night Live in 1981 as the audience for a performance by Lee Ving’s infamous L.A. punk band Fear, which had been given a leg up onto the show by their friend John Belushi.
“The original cast had left. Belushi was just coming back to do a spot,” Brannon says. “So we’re all hanging out in the green room. The dudes with the headphones and the clipboards are running around all terrified and shit. Belushi’s hanging out because he wanted to hang with all of us. I had black spiky hair, and Belushi’s like, ‘You should get a mohawk.’ Somebody had their clippers, and Belushi gave me a mohawk. Fear played, and we were just doing what we do, going nuts. I think that was America’s first glimpse of slam dancing and crazy punk dudes. The microphone gets knocked into the audience, and of course I grabbed it and I yelled, ‘Negative Approach is gonna fuck you up.’ That aired over live TV. That was kind of a thrill. I was about 18. When I got home, I wasn’t feeling the mohawk, so from that point on I was a skinhead”…
I’ve probably seen that Fear clip from SNL 100 times over the course of my life, and read about it several places, but I never knew that John Brannon was one of those kids. It’s weird… If someone hasn’t done so already, it would be cool to track down everyone who appeared in that segment and find out what happened to them. I bet it would make a hell of a documentary.
You can see the 1981 SNL footage here.
And, speaking of Fear, did you know that Lee Ving, who played a strip club owner in the movie Flashdance, once appeared on the sitcom Who’s the Boss? The episode was called “Walk on the Mild Side.”