By Will Oldham
I got to listening to the Misfits around the time that Samhain started up. Many of us in Louisville were what is known as “rabid fans” of both bands, and there wasn’t a day went by we didn’t talk about the records, about Glenn. Initium is a great record, unique. At one point, I put together a huge collage of images pulled from school encyclopedias… voodoo and gargoyles, lots of blood and nastiness. I sent it to Glenn, along with a cow skull and ten dollars, hoping against hope for something to come back. Well, not too long after, the mailman brought me a package from Lodi, and in it was a “Cough/Cool” single and a beautiful pale-yellow Samhain t-shirt.
I think I saw the second show that Samhain played at Newport, K.Y.’s Jockey Club; it was an amazing night, the first time I stayed up all night. Everyone in the band signed my yellow t-shirt. This was probably during the “Unholy Passion” trip. When the November-Coming-Fire trip came around, a Louisville band called Maurice was asked to open. I went along for the trip, taking pictures.
So Samhain was Glenn, Eerie, Damien, and London May, with roadie Tom. We went to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan. I remember Detroit, the show was at Corey Rusk’s place; at one point, after soundcheck, there was a buzz that Glenn was upstairs with Corey and Tesco Vee. A jaw-dropping summit! London, I am pretty sure, was a vegetarian, and the others constantly ribbed him in Jersey boy fashion; when we would stop at a Denny’s, say, to eat, Glenn and Eerie would tell London that there was some shrubbery outside… really idiotic stuff, but hilarious. Britt Walford played drums in Maurice, and he and I entertained Samhain with our impersonations of people with cerebral palsy. They got a big kick out of that. High-minded all around, we were.
In Bloomington, something occured that we were told was a remarkable event: Glenn drank some of a beer, maybe a whole beer. I remember sitting on a porch at a party after the show. Glenn had someone’s acoustic guitar, and he started to play the John Cougar song “Small Town”. Only he sang it like this: “Well I was born with no dick… and I am a lesbian…” and he giggled hysterically.
The shows blew my mind, every night. “Death Comes Ripping”, “Bloodfeast”, and “Die! Die! My Darling” thrown in with the songs from the three Samhain records. Powerful, awesome. Always front and center we were, screaming, sweating, singing along with every song. The band was a united front. I have never seen such great songs played so fiercely just for the audience that was right there.
I got to see the Samhain tour a couple of years ago. The set was brilliantly structured, with line-up and costume changes to reflect the evolution of Samhain. And with tension, and joy; it was as great as it was in 1985, because Glenn had changed it and made it as great as our memories would have had it. After the show, London re-introduced me to Glenn. Glenn stared at me blankly, then smiled and thanked me for coming. His voice was hoarse, he had a cold. He didn’t remember me at all from 1985. I think about him all of the time.
Musician Will Oldham currently records as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and has just released, via Drag City, a full-length collaboration with former Chavez and Zwan guitarist Matt Sweeney titled Superwolf.
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