The Monks of Mayhem
I already told you about how Iving Azoff—the most powerful person in the music industry—got his start as Bob Nutt’s associate at Blytham, Ltd., in Urbana, Illinois, in 1967. (And thanks to an original Blytham business card sent-in by Guy Maynard, we now know Irv had a short-lived predecessor in that role.)
Gary Pini is another important character in this story, and he too would eventually rise to great heights in the record industry, producing dance music singles and early rap records. Here’s Gary (left) on the Quad at the University of Illinois. In the background you can see the round building we used to sneak into via the Steam Tunnels that ran underneath the entire University campus (see my eBook, “The Steam Tunnels”). Gary is the one who took me to see the John Cage installation at the Stock Pavilion (see “The Importance of John Cage”).
Gary was going out with Caroline, who lived in a house at 1003 South Third Street with three other girls (Paula, Elke and Claudia), one of whom was an occasional lover of Jim Cole’s, which is why Cole spent a lot of time at that house.
Cole’s brother had an immaculate used Cadillac with minor issues parked in the driveway. After a few beers, Cole’d go into Destructo-Mania and jump out the second floor window onto the hood or roof or trunk, inflicting as much damage as possible with his booted feet. A sledge hammer often played a role in this game and the car was soon transformed into a worthless pile of junk. Bob Brandel (left) removed the dashboard for use in an art class but flunked that project. “Why are you in school?” asked his professor. John McNaughton had a similar art class and the moldy mattress he pulled out of the boneyard creek so disgusted his professor that McNaughton flunked his assignment. But those two practically unknown masterpieces now constitute perhaps the finest examples of the short-lived Destructo-Mania Art Movement and would probably sells for millions at Sotheby’s if anyone could find them.
Destructo-Mania had to end, however, since that particular lifestyle is not really sustainable. But it sure went out in a blaze of glory. A bunch of people were tripping and drinking beer late one night when Tony Byrnes sat in a chair and it broke accidentally, spilling him onto the floor. Everyone froze for a second and then broke into laughter and couldn’t stop. This accident had a somewhat inspirational impact on Cole, who pretty soon smashed the nearest object with his foot. Of course, this produced gales more laughter and it sort of escalated out-of-control from there. In order to keep the laughter going, objects were ceremoniously brought into the center of the room and ritualistically sacrificed. This was Destructo-Mania of the highest and most spiritual power. No object was spared by these Destructo Monks. The girls ran around in a frenzy, moving their sacred pieces into rooms under their control, trying to save whatever they could. Small things like cups and dishes went quickly, obviously, but then even the largest pieces of furniture were eventually stomped into submission by the Monks of mayhem. And before you knew it, virtually everything in the house was turned into a broken pile of junk on the living room carpet! At this point the Grandmaster of Mayhem himself, Jim Cole stood atop this glorious pile of destruction, armed with a jack-knife and matches delivering the final coup-de-grace, some by sword, others by fire. By this time, however, dawn was breaking and the girls were teary-eyed, so weary were they from trying to hold back the Monks. No longer could they feed this sacred fire of destruction, as there was nothing left to destroy. So they decided to help clean-up the mess they’d created and dragged the carpet with all the junk out the kitchen door and into the backyard.
This house was surrounded on all sides by the most clean-cut fraternities and sororities. In fact, the backyard was really a huge park used by fraternities for touch football games and frisbee throwing. The carpet was dragged to the center of this immaculate field where Cole set the mess on fire. I don’t know if the Fire Department ever arrived, but I’m sure the neighbors must have wondered where that huge smouldering pile of junk came from when they woke up hours later. The next weekend, I’d kick an empty beer bottle, trying to set off another round of Destructo-Mania, but the girls threw me up against the wall, threatened to punch me out, and announced the next person who tried to break anything was getting tossed out permanently. It was the end of Destructo-Mania.
Another detail completely missing in all ’60s films and docs: many of us were riding the new super-cheap Jap bikes. You could get a used 50cc model for $50. Here’s Cole (left) with his chopper. Larry and I had similar bikes, as did a few others in our scene.
If you like these stories, why not check out my band, the Soul Assassins, or my free eBooks. Links at the top-right column. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on future posts and thanks for stopping by. Photos courtesy John McNaughton.