The Gravedigger V: our own story

by John Hanrattie
issued on 99th Floor #7 Fall '85 - Winter '86

Now that almost a year has passed since the breakup of the Gravedigger V and all that remains is misplaced sales figures, scattered radio airplay, a few dedicated fans and a small amount of paling memories that lay upon the broken shards of time.
The Gravediggers started when Leighton Koizumi, Ted Friedman and I went to see some band, I forgot who, it could have been the Pandoras, when we decided anyone could do this. So we formed the band. Contrary to popular belief, we formed about the same time as our cross-town rivals the Tell-Tale Hearts. We weren't inspired nor influenced by them. They were into their thing whatever it is and we were into trying to learn how to play Gloria and Wild Thing.
Practices were held in our original bass player, Chris Gast's house, in the garage. It was at these practices that we developed many of our originals, such as the infamous It's Spooky. I could never believe that people liked this tune and it was many fans' favorite! It was simply an adlibbed joke! Every time we played it, the words changed since Leighton never wrote down the lyrics. The recorded version on Battle of the Garages 3 was perhaps the most outlandish version we ever did. There is a bootleg tape of an early practice circulating that has made it as far as Australia and Europe according to Livin' End's Dean Mittlehauser. If it's the same tape I remember, it's pathetic! You can hear us play our own originals wrong!
This lack of musical skill on the part of the band members (Ted was the only one proficient on his instrument) showed up at our first live gig at a party in San Diego. The Unclaimed's Shelly Ganz, who was in attendance, reportedly said, "That's the first band I've seen get the chords wrong to Wild Thing!" I don't know if that was true or not but I find it hard to believe we were that bad.
This brings up an important point. We did improve but always retained our rawness on purpose. All the people on the California garage scene say how much they dig garage music and understand it and all that, but when it comes down to it, they want to see a band like Yes or Journey. If the singer doesn't have the vocal range of Nat King Cole or Frankie Vallie, it is assumed they suck. More than once Ted and I were approached by idiots who said we'd be a better band if we got rid of Leighton. One member of a rival band suggested to Ted that they drop me. Ted told me and we had a good laugh. Some people didn't and still don't understand.
Everyone knows the rest of the Gravedigger V story as documented on the back cover of our All Black & Hairy album as well as Goldmine magazine's article on the "Garage Sale!" bands. The breakup came about mainly because of boredom. Ted and Leighton had a new band, the Morlochs, and the Gravediggers had gotten as far as they were going to go. (I disagree! The amount of surprisingly positive LP reviews as well as the enthusiasm behind plans for a reunion show and live album showed the band was off to a great start. Leighton & Ted refused these ideas so that was that - Editor Ron Rimsite). Rumors that Leighton had seven toes on one foot and only three on the other and was only able to sing unless he held onto the mike stand are unfounded… thus far.
Anyway the Morlochs continue on and I have pretty much dropped out of the band scene for now. Since the Gravedigger V days I've noticed the scene has gotten a lot larger and more negative in many respects. Los Angeles has turned into a giant fashion show of people in paisley shirts and beatle boots who know or care little about the music other than the latest Bomp reissue. They strive to be seen with Greg "People Magazine" Shaw or whatever band happens to be "cool" that weekend. Long gone are the days when girls used to really scream at the Crawdaddys (Why - did they get a close-up look at their faces or something? - Editor) not because it was the thing to do but because they wanted to. There are a lot of people around who still know what it's about, the ones who've been into the music since they were twelve. They know how ridiculous the little "Cavern crowd" is (the Cavern Club is Greg Shaw and Larry Lazar's Hollywood sixties "revival" club where the girls pretend they are Edie Sedgewick and the boys pretend they are Lee Joseph! - Editor) and jokes are frequently made, often right to these people's faces and still they don't understand.
And it continues to get worse! Now there is a little gossip sheet passed out courtesy of the Voxx Records contingent that serves no purpose other than to say how cool some people are and how uncool others are. I never knew the scene was about someone's "Teenage hair"! What the fuck has that got to do with anything?
I guess it would be OK if it was just gossip because I'm sure the rivalry between bands in the sixties was quite intense. This shit however stretches itself to new levels of hypocrisy and fuckheadedness when it took to knocking Ron Rimsite! (What did those shitheads say?! Of course those dimwitted faggots had to wait till I was 3,000 miles away!!! Pussys!! - Editor). I don't know which Cavern groupie writes that shit but they should realize that Ron has always been the scene's biggest supporter and has done a lot of work for the Pandoras, Tell-Tale Hearts and Gravediggers to name a few (and Greg's bank account in turn! - Editor). It really is a shame that the whole Voxx-Cavern crowd has to show off their stupidity and petty jealousies by insulting and alienating people instead of working to build the scene and make it stronger. I'm sure when this article is read in L.A. all the people I've offended will hate me and I'm GLAD!! I know who my friends are - real honest people who genuinely care about the music and not just trying to fit in with these immature cliques.
I'd like to conclude this piece by thanking everyone who has helped or supported the Gravedigger V during our short career and recognize the difference between garage music and opportunistic revivalism and fashion trending. Now I've gotta split and watch MTV to see if the Cavern crowd is on the latest "psychedelic" Prince video.

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