Sublett Moody Austin ACL
Jesse Sublett at the Moody Theater (ACL Live) ca. 2016
Sublett Moody
Jesse Sublett at the Moody Theater (ACL Live) ca. 2016

Punk histories tend to share common denominators. The Sex Pistols’ 1976 gig at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester (you probably know what I’m going to say: Pete Shelley, Howard Devoto, Tony Wilson, and the members of Joy Division were all there). Iggy Pop spurting blood at Max’s Kansas City. The Clash’s White Riot tour kicking off at the Roxy in London. The Ramones at New York’s CBGB’s. 

But Austin, Texas, too, has its place on the punk map. And it was the Skunks who put it there. 

In 1978, bassist and lead singer Jesse Sublett formed the band with Eddie Munoz and Bill Blackmon. They headlined at famed Austin venues like Raul’s and the Continental Club, they played CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City in New York, and they recorded great music. During the summer of 1979, their single “Push Me Around” on a Live at Raul’s compilation record became the “most-requested song” on Austin’s KLBJ radio for a number of weeks running. In one of the early pieces to appear in Austin’s alternative weekly newspaper The Austin Chronicle, the Skunks were hailed as “the foremost rock band in Austin . . . traditional hard rock shot with the freshness of new wave.” While the Skunks went through some lineup changes and ultimately broke up only a handful of years after coming together, the band has reunited on a somewhat regular basis for gigs. 

I got a chance to talk with Jesse Sublett about the Skunks, his own punk rock coming of age, and the perils of being a musician during a global pandemic. 

Skunks black album
The Skunks (“The Black Album”)

AG: There’s a lot I could begin with, but I’ve gotta start by asking you about the story behind the Skunks’ first LP. For a very long time, that self-titled album (The Skunks officially, but known among fans as “The Black Album” in reference to its black cover and white text) was the holy grail for my vinyl collection. I finally found a copy, and I’d love to hear you talk about making that record.

JS: It was one of those things that just kind of evolved. It started very casually. In about April or May of 1978, Joe Gracey [renowned Austin DJ-turned-music producer] came to see us play. I didn’t even know who he was at the time, but he was an important DJ. No, wait, I take that back! He had produced the Fabulous Thunderbirds 45. We liked him—that’s right! But I didn’t know the broader picture of his role in developing the progressive country format. But anyway, he said ‘hey, you wanna come down and make some recordings?’ And we said ‘sure,’ and the next day we went down to his basement studio and started recording some tracks. We just kept recording, and it was fun because, if you don’t get it on the first or second take, it was like, just move on. Don’t bother trying to perfect things. And we were really into that.

We didn’t have a contract and just kept recording. We got a copy on a cassette of maybe six songs we had recorded, and we gave it to the radio station, and they were playing it. That was great because it got us more audiences. So by the fall, we were supposed to do an album, and we said, ‘hey we need a contract!’ I bugged Bobby Earle Smith and Joe Gracey at some party late at night. Later that night they called me into the kitchen and they had a contract written on a napkin. We signed it! A friend of ours invested money in the pressing, and then we didn’t hear from them for a long time, and it was a real sore spot between us.

They did finally put the record out in ‘81. By that point, we had already put out several singles, and it sounded kind of funny to us at that time—it didn’t sound like what we wanted. I like it now, for the most part [laughs]. But anyway, I talked to a lawyer at that time, and he worked on getting them to kill the record. I went around to all the retailers and they all agreed not to sell it, and so they only pressed 500 copies and sold them out of the trunk of their car. So that made it more of a collector’s item [laughs].

 I ended up being friends with Joe and Bobby, so we laugh about it now (Gracey died in 2011).

AG: It’d be pretty cool if it got a re-release. Speaking of re-releases, how’d the 7” re-release for your single “Can’t Get Loose” on Last Laugh Records happen a few years ago?

JS: He just contacted me! [laughs] I think he put out somebody’s record I knew, and then they told him about me. But we hit it off right away, and he did the record. I don’t know if it sold as well as he thought it would, but he did a great job. So I was happy about that. As you probably know, the original single cost like $5 to make.

AG: And a few years before that (in 2001), the Skunks compilation Earthquake Shake was released by an Italian label, Rave Up Records. How’d that happen?

JS: They just contacted me, too [laughs]. It was kind of funny. I was trying to figure out what to give them. Some of it was live, some of it was studio, and they ended up getting it backwards on the liner notes. We had just put out a CD called Earthquake Shake: Live, so they called this thing Earthquake Shake. He sent like $300 or $400 in cash inside a poster, and then some time went by and I bugged him, and he sent a little more, then a little more. I think he was ultimately short maybe . . . $200. I’d just bug him about it for the hell of it. I knew I wasn’t going to get it. But overall it was a good experience, and the record looks good.

AG: Yeah, I think so, too. So are you still writing music? 

JS: Did I send you my “Quarantine Blues” song?

AG: No, but I saw you posted something about it on social media! I’d love to hear it.

Sublett cigar box guitar
Jesse’s Cigar Box Guitar

JS: I’ll send you the MP3. I started making these cigar box guitars [takes out cigar box guitar and starts playing]. That one’s out of tune! It’s a really lo-fi blues sound.

It was only last year on our trip to London that I met Rat Scabies, drummer for the Damned, and I bought one of the cigar box guitars he makes. He’s made over 100 by now. After I brought that guitar home, I decided I could make my own CBGs and make them the way I wanted them.

Jesse sent me the MP3 for “Quarantine Blues,” along with a number of other CBG songs he has been writing in his Austin, TX home. The songs are at once fresh while paying homage to the sounds of Texas blues musicians who have come before, like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lightnin’ Hopkins, and of course, later on, Stevie Ray Vaughan. The sounds that emanate from the cigar box guitar are twangy and melancholy. If those notes were colors, they might be a deep lapis, singed with sunset golds. 

AG: I love that cigar box guitar. Speaking of instruments, how’d you get started playing bass?

JS: [laughs] Well, that’s easy. When I was about 13, I bought an acoustic guitar, and I learned a few chords from a woman in Johnson City named Boots Mauldin. She had a big bouffant, and she married into a musical family. She played the Louisiana Hayride [a radio and TV country show]. It might have been the same show where Elvis had been on the bill. “She played on the Louisiana Hayride with Elvis”—that’s what I had heard, and I just accepted it. So, she taught me a few chords, but she was so into country music that she wasn’t really able to help me with the music I wanted to play. [Yet] at $5 a lesson, it was a bargain.

I’d go to the lesson, and she’d tune my guitar. And then I’d get home and it’d be out of tune, and it wouldn’t get tuned again until the next lesson. Then I got an electric guitar, and I had the same problem, and I just couldn’t put it together. So a friend of mine—my brother’s three years older and had cool friends—had a cheap violin-shaped bass. He was going to learn to play bass but then changed his mind, and he offered to trade me for my Silvertone six-string. So we traded, and I paid him an extra $15. He was trying to take advantage of me [laughs]. Anyhow I loved the bass right away. A few weeks later he wanted to renege on the deal—he wanted his bass back. It didn’t happen. The bass stayed in tune longer, and I was able to learn how to tune it and to play it. It was a slow process [laughs].

cigar box guitar army
The CBG Army

AG: Who were some of your music influences when you started playing, and through your days in the Skunks?

JS: I came up with the mid-60s garage rock era. The Standells and The Mysterians, Zachary Thaks (from Corpus Christi), Paul Revere & the Raiders, and above all, the Rolling Stones, who were and still are gods to me. They say the music you hear around 14 or 15 is always going to be with you. It’s haunting. When I was 15 or 16, I was able to drive to San Antonio, Austin, and go to concerts. We saw Canned Heat a lot. When I started playing bass, those concerts were really instructive because I learned a lot listening to the blues and extended jams, where there was a lot of repetition going on, variations on the same riffs over and over again. There’d always be a 30-minute version of a song with a solo, so those songs were an influence in that way.

Then, when I was in college, I had some friends who were into art rock, Robert Fripp and King Crimson and stuff. It was related to Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry and New York Dolls. Well, not the New York Dolls, really! But if you were into art rock, you might go that way. That’s when I got into Bryan Ferry. And it’s true that all through the Skunks I loved Abba! But I sort of skipped over my heavy metal phase in high school, so there was that. 

Anyway, in the late 70s and early 80s I was listening to a lot of Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello, the great artists who made Stiff Records a real force in new music. There were lots of other bands, like the Damned, who were really cool at the time.

The Townsend
The Skunks at the Townsend, 2015

AG: Same music interests now?

In the last 20 years, I’ve really listened to a lot of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, O.V. Wright, Al Green. Like, OK, a lot of people will say they really like those artists, but I studied them, hard. I mean I had been playing Willie Dixon songs, Muddy and the Wolf for years, going back to the mid 1970s, and Spoonful (the song by Willie Dixon) was actually one of the first songs I learned and sang (pathetically at first). But then as I got older and more respectful of the great artists I was inspired by, I spent a whole lot of time studying and analyzing what they were doing. Eventually you start to soak up more knowledge. And hopefully, you get better at performing renditions of those great songs.

Also in the last 15 years or so I’ve really gotten into some of the great jazz musicians, usually focused on the bass players, but then when you get into it that way, you also meet the other stunning instrumentalists. So, starting with Charles Mingus, and I’m a super fan of his, and grooving with Ron Carter, Christian McBride, and others, I started listening to a lot of Miles Davis, Jimmy Rushing, Modern Jazz Quartet, Charlie Parker.

A lot of these players, particularly Mingus, did music for the soundtracks to great film noir features. Modern Jazz Quartet did the soundtrack for Odds Against Tomorrow. Miles Davis* did some, too, and Mingus, I think, is featured in a number of crime movies. You just can’t beat that music for evoking a dark, ambiguous atmosphere for shady characters and cross-firing agendas. [*Miles Davis famously improvised an entire score for Louis Malle’s 1958 film Elevator to the Gallows.]

AG: Ah, I was going to ask about connections between your songwriting and your hardboiled detective writing. I thought of you the other day when I read this thing Elvis Costello said about wanting “Watching the Detectives” to “sound like Hitchcock.” I love that idea of a sort of medium synesthesia. 

JS: Before Elvis Costello, I read something about another artist saying they were really inspired by [Dashiell] Hammett or [Raymond] Chandler, and I hadn’t even read those guys very deeply. Then in the ‘80s, I was on the road with some guys who read that stuff and liked dressing in old suits and stuff. We were swapping books with each other. We just dug it. So it did sort of seep into my mind when I wrote some [Skunks] songs like “Push Me Around,” and the song “The Racket,” which didn’t turn out very well, but was in that vein, and a few others that didn’t survive [laughs].

Then you know, we might write a film noir scenario, some ‘tough guy’ lines, but there’s also that feeling infused with that kind of writing that, well, I really got into. It’s what got me into reading hardboiled crime fiction—period, or, semi-colon, actually, because this led directly to my writing hardboiled short stories, then novels and screenplays.

In addition to being a badass songwriter and musician, Sublett is also a writer of hardboiled fiction and a non-fiction chronicler of twentieth-century Austin history. His first novel, Rock Critic Murders, was published in the late 1980s, featuring a protagonist who feels like another version of Sublett himself. The protagonist is Martin Fender, a “semi-legendary Austin rock and R&B bassist” who works part-time as a skip-tracer. The character reappeared in two more novels in the “Martin Fender” series in the years that followed. In 2004, Sublett wrote a memoir, Never the Same Again: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Gothic. More recently, he published a “true crime” work about Austin gangsters in the 1960s. That’s just a handful of his books, and he’s working on a new one as I write this.

AG: I just realized I haven’t even asked you how the Skunks got started.

Skunks 1979
The Skunks, Backstage at Club Foot, 1979

JS: As far as playing goes, I hooked up with Eddie Munoz first. You know at that point, I had been in a couple of different bands. I kept trying to get a band together that was able to play gigs, but it’s like a nightmare when you keep trying to do something and you always fail. We had parts that were good, but it was never going to happen. But anyway . . .

I met Eddie Munoz, and we hit it off right away. We were both into the retro-garage-rock, the stuff on the Pebbles compilations [US underground and garage rock from the 1960s] and stuff like that. So we both knew about 100 songs within a couple of months of meeting one another that we could play. We joined the band Jelly Roll, like a glam blues band. Our repertoire was heavy on a lot of cool Texas rhythm and blues, like Rosco Gordon, a bunch of Mose Allison songs, early Stones, Muddy Waters, Slim Harpo. 

Jelly Roll broke up, and the Violators asked if maybe I could help them out. Eddie was always there to help with the amplifiers. During the breaks, he’d grab a guitar and I’d still have my bass, and we’d play songs we knew. One night we were playing and talking to the drummer, Billy [Blackmon], and said ‘hey let’s start a band.’ We only rehearsed maybe twice and then played. So there was that.

Sublett formed the Violators with Marilyn Dean, Carla Olson, and Kathy Valentine (later of the Go-Go’s). On Jeff Whittington’s 1983 “Punk Family Tree,” which visualizes the early years of the Austin punk and post-punk scene, the Violators are at the top of the tree, with bands like Big Boys, the Plimsouls, and Rank and File on various branches along with dozens of other bands tied to Austin in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

AG: What were some of the early and great Skunks gigs?

JS:  Aside from the great, amazing experience of playing at Raul’s and being part of the ground zero effect of Austin’s punk scene, I have a real historical affection for Continental Club. We started the whole rock ’n’ roll thing there in the late ‘70s.

And Raul’s . . . . It had previously been a club called Gemini’s. It was the kind of club that would book anybody—you didn’t have to be Top 40 or country. When it changed into Raul’s, we just assumed we could play there. They booked us, and it was really exciting. By that point, people had heard of the Sex Pistols. Only a few hundred people were there [at the Sex Pistols gig], but word really spread around. There was a lot of excitement and anticipation. So people would come and either really love it, like you were really doing them a favor by playing punk rock, or they hated it and they wanted to kill you. Some of them would get in fights, they’d threaten us . . . . It was very weird and . . . exciting [laughs]. The first month or so people would throw stuff at us, just to be “punk.”

AG: The punk affect! [laughs]

JS: Yeah, cans were OK. It all got old pretty soon. Within a couple of months we started opening some bigger shows, and we opened for this metal guitar god guy Nitzinger in New Braunfels at this place called the Conquistador. This was with the Violators. They really hated us and wanted to kill us. The last couple of songs, Eddie came out to rouse everybody up, and the crowd, they were throwing a lot of bottles at us.

I mean, we didn’t go out and seek that out. I didn’t want stuff thrown at me. But if those people hated you, you knew you had something going!

AG: I know the Skunks also did a number of gigs in New York. Were those different from the shows in Texas?

JS: Yeah, the audiences there were more jaded, they didn’t want to get rowdy. I guess there were bands they really loved and would get expressive about, but generally in Texas, people are louder and they’ll holler and whistle, and I just didn’t see that in New York, even with bigger shows I went to.

Although we saw the Ramones a lot and opened for them once or twice. They were awesome live. It was like getting run over by a regiment of tanks going 100 miles an hour. Their records never captured the live intensity.

AG: Other favorite gigs where you were in the audience?

JS: Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music shows. I’ve seen him in London at the Royal Albert Hall, at the Greek, at the Staples Center. Another favorite show of all time was an opera adapted from The Exterminating Angel. And well, you know, the Sex Pistols in San Antonio at Randy’s Rodeo. They were rock ’n’ roll personified. 

In a 1980 article in the Austin American-Statesman, Margaret Moser, who’d go on to write for the Austin Chronicle, linked the Skunks to the Sex Pistols and the rise of punk more generally. While the mid-1970s didn’t see much of a punk scene in Austin, Moser explained how “things began to change in 1977” with the Ramones and the Dictators playing gigs in Austin, giving the Texas city “its first taste of the music evolving in England and New York.” And in January 1978, “the Sex Pistols played San Antonio and gave a new perspective to rock.”

Just a short month later, Moser wrote at the time, “two bands debuted at a small club west of campus and Austin has not been the same since.” What were those bands? Sublett’s two punk bands, naturally: the Violators and the Skunks, “the first of their kind.”

AG: How about some of the bands playing CBGB and other New York City spots?

JS: In New York, we saw Bush Tetras when we were up there, but we really got to be friends with John Cale. So we saw 8 Eyed Spy a bunch of times. We opened for them here [in Texas] in Austin and Houston, and we drove them to Houston for the show there. The bass player, George Scott, we’d stay with him when we played New York. I’m still friends with Pat Irwin, the guitar player in those bands.

AG: What was songwriting like in those Skunks days?

JS: I wrote a lot of songs in the Skunks, and some of them have held up OK, but most of them sound pretty dated now. Part of that is just the passage of time, but another factor is that songwriting kinda came easy to me once I figured it out, and lyrics especially. But that doesn’t mean they were good lyrics. I was kind of narcissistic in that I thought, Hey, I spent five minutes or an hour writing these lyrics, so that’s it. I’m clever, so they’re good, people will dig it.

And some of the songs had kind of jokey attitudes in them that may have been funny late at night, trash talking between the boys and the girls at closing time, but in the cold light of day, not so cool. “Cheap Girl” was a big hit. We could play it for a club at happy hour during soundcheck where nobody knew us or our music, and that night people would hollering out requesting it. Sometimes we had to play it 3 times a night. The lyrics were inspired by trash talk. It was punk rock so it was OK most of the time, but then people started analyzing it and saying we were sexist, awful people. And you know, I’m embarrassed about the lyrics today. They’re really degrading. What if I had spent a little more time writing better lyrics? Because the song is brilliantly structured if I say so myself. It’s not just the dirty lyrics that sell it, but the chord structure and the punchy D chord hook: beat-beat-beat (“Cheap, cheap, cheap!”).

So, whatever, I made a mistake. But some of the harshest critics of that song had no problem with The Huns song “Eat Death Scum” which has the singer wanting to kill a girlfriend who gave him the clap.

“Earthquake Shake” has a lot of stupid lines also, but somehow it’s not really offensive. That’s one of the songs I wrote in my failure period I told you about, where my bands never made it out of the garage. In 1977 when I started listening to the Pistols and Damned, Ramones, Elvis Costello, I realized that I just had to speed up the heavy metal sludge beat and it would work.

AG: How do you reflect on the Austin music scene in the 1970s and 1980s these days?

JS: You could go see a great band at Raul’s, then go see another at the Continental Club, then another somewhere else. Driving. The town being smaller, less traffic, lax DWI enforcement, brought much greater connectivity. Starting with the Dillo, Austin was a place where bands that would seem to have little in common with each other would be featured on the same bill. That’s how Austin became a great music capital.

When the city was smaller, you felt the buzz of a scene happening all over. It’s ironic, since now we have the Internet, YouTube and all these other ways to experience music, and yet, in some ways, the scene felt more vibrant in the analog era. For one thing, the drinking age being 18 really made a huge difference. And if you wanted to check out a band, you went to see them play. Now you’ll check out their website, download some songs for free, check out the social media to see who likes them, and then you might decide to go pay to see them play.

I’m not complaining. It was just different. There was a very different dynamic to live music. Today, live music has acquired some new energy and importance because bands aren’t making as much with their records now and touring, house concerts, and stuff like that aren’t just for promoting the band, but providing fans with a special product that they can’t download online.

Jesse and I exchanged emails over several days, and ultimately several weeks, after our Zoom interview. I wish we could have done the whole thing face-to-face but, you know, there’s a global pandemic. Much of the remaining dialogue is drawn from our email exchanges.

JS: [A few days ago] I told you about being friends with John Cale’s band and how that led to friendships with Pat Irwin and George Scott and Lydia Lunch. But I didn’t tell you how great John Cale and that band were. That was a huge inspiration. They were fearless. The backup singer Deer France was so cool, too, and beautiful, just achingly beautiful, and she’s a friend on Facebook these days.

And I never mentioned Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. I kind of immersed myself in Lou & the VU during the dark period of my life, in my early 20s, and you know, there’s that dark, ethereal beauty in their music. Also, Patti Smith, the first LPs, so great. Horses blew my mind. And I bought the first single, produced by John Cale. It was a smaller world then, and there were these small musical circles that brought together everyone who was cool.

AG: I want to come back to “Quarantine Blues,” which I’ve been listening to a lot these days, and love. Do you have plans to do anything with it?

JS: Not sure what I might do someday with these [CBG] tunes. I lost some of the tracks in a crash last October. I’ve been trying to get another original song recorded, but I have to budget time for things like that so that I can get my other work done. 

A quick line before happy hour in our front yard with Dashiell and Mia, our son and his girlfriend, and two great friends, Jake and Lauri Riviera. You probably know this but Jake was the co-founder of Stiff Records and manager of Nick Lowe and Elvis C for like, forever. I’m glad you like Q Blues. I shoulda played you a tune. I’ll send you another one.

When Jesse mentioned casually that he was hosting a happy hour with Jake Riviera, my heart skipped a beat. Images of Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric, and Kirsty MacColl raced through my head alongside the brightest Stiff Records release of all (in my mind at least), the Feelies’ Crazy Rhythms (1980). Naturally, I had to ask Jesse to tell me more about his friendship with the founder of Stiff Records. 

JS: Jake is a friend from way back. I met him at the beginning of 1978. Lois had met him in 1977 during her London stay, and she had been friends for years with Antoinette Laumer, who would marry Jake later that year. My bandmates in the Violators, Kathy Valentine & Carla Olson, had also met Jake in London and were also friends with Antoinette, aka Tony.

So we (“we” means Lois and I, who hooked up that January, Carla, Kathy, and Eddie Munoz) went to see Rockpile at the Armadillo and met all the guys, and I think we had already met Jake at an Elvis Costello show. Anyway, The Skunks were playing at Raul’s after Rockpile at the Dillo, and they all came to see the band. Dave Edmunds & Terry Williams, I think, were playing pool when Nick Lowe walked in and we were playing his song “In the Heart of the City” with Elvis singing. Nick does a double take.

I think you must already know the story of Elvis jamming with us. We invited him up to play “Mystery Dance” and after playing it, he had a look at our set list, which included more of his songs plus several Nick Lowe songs, plus the Damned, Kinks, Stones, Who, Velvet Underground, and a scattering of original songs. So like I said, he glanced at our set list and remained planted onstage and played the whole set. At the end of the set, he wanted to play some honky-tonk classics, which I went along with reluctantly because at the time I detested country music. The set ended, and he and Eddie went off for a few beers. Second set, more classic country, plus some of Elvis’s country songs, and I tolerated this for a while, but soon became irritated and started playing heavy metal bass riffs to the country stuff. Elvis got the message and took a bow.

At this point, reader, I think I inquired further about Jesse’s friendship with Jake Riviera. I also emailed him some images of early Skunks ephemera I’ve collected over the years, which I meant to show him over our earlier Zoom call.

Skunks Cheathum StreetJS: Regarding Jake, he’s been not only a friend but a best friend of ours for many years now. For about ten years now, he and his wife Lauri have been doing AirBnB in our neighborhood for about six months a year. We found them a place across the street from us which they did two years in a row, then we found a cool place just across I-35 from us, about a five minute walk, which they purchased 3 years ago. Currently, they’re actually stuck here because of several complications due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They aren’t unhappy about it, but Jake really detests the summer heat here, so that’s going to be a challenge.

And the ephemera you’ve collected is fun and interesting — “Cheathum” St . . . . if you had asked me, I would have told you we never played Mother Earth after 1978, and yet, there it is. 

AG: Any Skunks reunion plans?

JS: We had plans for a March 15 reunion at Backstage, down the street on S 1st. The previous week they canceled SXSW. We still thought maybe it would happen. Lois and I went down S Congress, talking to all the business owners down there and everyone was like, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna be better actually, a local party! Austin bands!” It was this delirious delusion everyone had. So we thought the gig was still going to happen. It was a party for Louis Black [co-founder of The Austin Chronicle]. It didn’t get canceled until the day just before, and right up until then everyone was saying, “it’s still gonna happen!” Finally, the morning before the gig, the sad announcement came. Reality had struck, and we all realized we had gone right up to the brink. The Skunks could have become famous for being the Austin punk band behind a superspreader event. I could almost write our obituary.

As far as the Austin Chronicle goes, I’m hoping this party for Louis Black still happens in a post-pandemic future. The music-centered newspaper published its first issue in September 1981, and it remains a mainstay for music journalism. In 2011, the Austin Chronicle celebrated its 30th anniversary with a party and gig at Antone’s, and the lineup was stellar. The Skunks, Daniel Johnston, Standing Waves, and other bands from various moments in the Austin scene played. There are a lot of kickass cities across the globe that gave rise to punk, from New York to Manchester to Los Angeles to London. Yet Austin makes that list, too. 

Shortly before the Austin Chronicle celebrated 30 years of reporting on the music scene, Black described Austin, TX in a timeless manner that reflects the staying power of bands like the Skunks and others that still call the city home:

“Cities have often been defined in finite ways. Pittsburgh was a steel town, Chicago the world’s hog butcher, and Fort Worth once was the cattle-processing capital of Texas. Austin is a city where the common daily background sounds are not just those of jackhammers and railroad cars . . . .  Awake the city is of music and asleep is dreaming of music. Music is everywhere and of everyone, coming out of houses, schools, municipal buildings, cars, street corners, clubs, and parks . . . . Turn, turn, turn to the music everywhere, music being made in the present—but also in the future imagined and in a past so honored and relevant it’s not really past.”

You can find Jesse Sublett on his website, Instagram, and Twitter.

Audrey J. Golden is a literature and film professor who lives in New York. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and you can check out her personal website to learn more about her writing and her archive of books, records, and ephemera. 

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