LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA , 1984: The Sonoran desert is hot during the day and cold hell at night. It is a bleak landscape that only shows its beauty and majesty if you are worthy. There are unending vistas, delicate and beautiful things that grow in unexpected places and powerful hallucinogens like peyote and the powdered glands of the Bufo Alvarious toad.
It is mysterious, dangerous, tantalizing, life-changing and can only be understood if you are with it and let it in you. Like most Gurls, the desert is like most things worth doing, it is like most things that matter in a well-examined life.
Kara Nicks – From the Sonoran desert to SST
Gurl Thirty Eight came out of the desert around Tuscon. Like many, she wasn’t born there but circumstance found her there when she was supposed to be. That odd stretch of desert has given rise to some of the most provocative and lasting art of the last 100 years of solitudes and beatitudes.
Gurl Thirty-Eight spent strange daze and wasted graveyard nights blazing on the Yaqui buttons of Castaneda that gave way to beer runs to see punk bands all over Arizona. It was accidentally meeting Black Flag at a show in 1982 that her course became set and her special gifts began to take shape.
She had found a kindred spirit in this swashbuckling coterie of traveling musical evangelicals sowing discord and sonic bliss. Kara was especially taken by their sound person and got in the van with him to help move the huge assortment of loudspeakers, amplifiers and assorted gear used to put on a show as they moved thru the desert wastey lands.
Tiny but tough as nails, she could lift more weight than most of the cops who hassled her for her looks.
“Gurl 38” enters the SST orbit
This was in 1983. By 1984, Gurl Thirty-Eight, Kara Nicks would flee that desert and make her way to the equally harsh environs of Hollywood. Not being one to sit tight or suffer a crazy person for a place to lay her head, she was soon kicked out of the infamous Hotel Hell and into the heavy orbit of SST and Your Humble Narrator (YHN).
She went to a show at the fabled Cathay De Grande looking for her old cohort Davo and ended-up with Mugger, the notorious runaway cum business mastermind of SST’s burgeoning efforts to break open the music business.
Although known for his risque riffs and riskier bon mots with his band Nig-Heist, it was his head for numbers and incredible discipline that truly defined him. Mugger helped Kara find a place to stay and would later start her on her way.
She had somehow managed to become the indie record buyer for the big Wherehouse Records store in the center of Hollywood. She was living with the woman who ran the SST mail-order operation, Jeanine, the sister of the Minutemen’s D.Boons inamorata. It was like one, big happy family of miscreants and provocateurs. Things were going well for all us until that fateful day.
Tragedy at SST opens the door for Kara
December 22nd, 1985. That is the day Dennes died. Jeannine’s sister was in the van driving back from the Sonoran desert when the axle snapped and the van crashed. D. passed and Jeanine was left in a wheelchair, unable to work. It was Jeanine who told Mugger to hire Kara to take her place at SST.
It was a perfect fit and an amazing opportunity for YHN to get to know a true original and understand yet another facet of what makes a Gurl.
Kara takes indie distribution at SST to new levels.
She appeared. Bold, brassy and loaded for bear. It didn’t take long for her to take what had been a sort of groovy “whatever” kind of fulfillment operation into the realm of well-oiled machine territory. Early on, her skills were noticed and her responsibilities increased exponentially.
Within a short amount of time, she was assisting in the distribution efforts that supported artists like Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Firehose, Bad Brains, Soundgarden, Descendents, her beloved Meat Puppets and too many more to mention.
She and YHN worked very closely creating materials for publicity, marketing and fun. One of the perks of the job was being of use to the imaginations of our bands.
SST at the peak of intensity
Here’s Gurl Thirty-Eight on the cover of a Black Flag release in a 3 dollar black wig from a store in Watts, YHN’s pot pipe, a few joints, an eighth and a bong he fashioned from poster tubes with the brother of Gurl Thirty Nine.
Groovy times. They never last. No matter how hardcore you want them to. YHN left SST for some reason and Gurl Thirty-Eight was gone by 1990. A golden age of one sort was over but new ones were ever ahead.
After SST….there is life
YHN was gone from Hollywood but still deep in music when he next crossed paths with Kara Noid (Yeah, we all had pseudonyms in those daze, YHN was Spaceman). She had moved to Nashville and was booking a club that was as bold and musically adventurous as she was.
When the band Cerberus Shoal, who YHN had found in a porn theater and was now “managing” (Wait for Gurl Forty-Nine) called to check-in they said “Oh yeah, the Gurl here says she knows you.
She called you “Spaceman???”
I guess that is the thing
I guess that is the thing about real Gurls and Boize. We can’t help it. Like hip priests we are drawn like moths to a flame to music, art, fucking up, out, around and forever, as long as we can be of use to those we care about.
No toads were licked in the writing of this piece.
YHN is Dove Linkhorn, a character from “A Walk On The Wild Side” and is known for learning most of life’s lessons from women. His journey to the big city and his rapid immersion into scenes of casual violence, casus belli and constant experience and his subsequent return to the one who gave him the most of everything, is a cool story.
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