I don’t want this to be a Duff McKagan centric piece, but be honest, he’s easily the most famous member of The Living, a punk band from Seattle, circa 1982, also the title of the record. For the few people out there, who do not recognize the name, Duff McKagan is/was the bassist for Guns N’ Roses. To many people if would seem a bit bizarre linking a punk rock band to a member of GNR that some associate with glam metal, but I can assure you that Duff’s pedigree goes back a long way and he will always be a true punk.
Duff started his musical career in many different punk rock bands in his native Seattle. I tried to start a shopping list of bands he played in, or guest spots on other performers records, and every time I thought I nailed the list, something else crept up. I gave up on the list. He subsequently left the city many years before it grew into the rock metropolis that it morphed into in the early nineties.
Before he left, he was a member of The Living. A band that was a blueprint for all his bands that followed, and a reminder of where his roots lie. The Living is rounded out by Duff on guitar, Greg Gilmore of Mother Love Bone fame on drums, John Conte on vocals, and Todd Fleischman on bass. I had no idea what to expect from this band of teenagers (Duff was 17 at the time of this recording), but I gotta say it was fantastic.
Being put out from Loose Groove Records started by Seattle legends Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, and Regan Hagar, a sometime bandmate of Gossard’s in Brad. 1982’s seven songs clocks in at under twenty minutes, with one song almost hitting the epic three and a half mark. These songs are filled with all the youthful ferocious energy that you’d expect from a group of seventeen-year olds. But don’t for a second let that fact that they’re younger (at the time of this recording), than most of you reading this that this record is not a professional undertaking, because it as well done as anything else from the era, and in some case, which will be unnamed, a better quality.
What amazes me about this record is how great it sounds. The guitars are in your face and upfront, but not drowning out or taking over the other players. Gilmore’s drumming is on point all through the record, and the vocals, both lead and background, or outstanding and not buried in the mix. Great performances by the entire band. Whether it was recorded in a fancy shmancy studio, or some’s basement doesn’t really matter, because from the initial power chords of the opener A Promise, you’re hooked. The next song Two Generation Stand packs a huge wallop filled with angsty lyrics that represent a bunch of punkers trying to survive Ronald Reagan’s world. Live By the Gun is as topical today as I was in 1982, perhaps even more so, with the band commenting on the evils of guns in society.
The records finale I Want goes at a neck breaking speed that when it’s over you’ll be covered in sweat from the pure energy exploding out of the speakers, as the band laments about the things that the rich and affluent have, and the things that they’re being held from achieving, or even obtaining.
This record represents a time in the interlude before punk turned into hardcore. It has one foot in the great punk bands that started everything in the late seventies, and other foot firmly placed into the next wave of bands that roamed throughout the eighties, to small fanatic followings. This record not only rocks but is a genuine piece of history that chronicles a legendary rock figure starting to come into his own, and how criminally undervalued this band was, as well as the entire movement itself.
Article: Carmine Basilicata