Punk Rock paper

My personal history with Antler Joe and the Accidents started in the Fall of 1984. I had recently moved from Milwaukee to Ft. Myers, Florida, and was having a bit of culture shock. Ft. Myers was WAY down south and back then, it meant it was very isolated from just about everything.

What it meant locally, was the youth down there had to make their own entertainment because almost nothing was offered to them. Concerts and stuff that Milwaukee had regularly would be holy miracles in Southwest Florida…but the kids were just as creative as their Midwestern contemporaries, and were eager to find outlets.

I was a drummer, and into punk stuff. I quickly found a band of guys to play with (The Social Whores), and landed a job in the local Record Bar. On the job at the record store, one of my coworkers was a tall guy who looked like Joey Ramone and went by the nickname Fish (Jesus Fish Superbeer, to be formal) – he was John Keane, and I had never really met anyone like him. Happy to say, he still holds that honor with me.

Fish was somewhat of a local legend for being a punk front man – and though his band had broken up by the time I arrived, they had produced a 45 before imploding. Being friends outside of work, I got to spin the 45 at John’s apartment and heard for the first time, “Who Needs a Woman Like You,” “Words” and the truly wonderful “Dogshit.”

live shot of Antler Joe and the AccidentsJohn had a box of the 45s in his room, so I asked if I could have one and he quickly gave it to me, provided I would not play it around him again. It was an easy thing to agree to, and I got my copy of the EP Go Commercial by Antler Joe and the Accidents. There were 500 of them made, and mine was #214 – as so written in ballpoint pen on the back cover.

The Post-record Band Days

I learned pretty quickly, Fish HATED the EP, and was not interested in it anymore after it was out. I kind of figured it was because of a bad split in the band, but I had met Mike Daly at the store, and he and John seemed to still get along just fine. I later met Tim Lau, the other guitar player, and he also seemed good with John. We (Tim and I) eventually played together a few times with a bass player, wailing out some loud, crunchy stuff…but again, no bad blood seemed to linger there. I never met Dave Cook, that I recall. Maybe Tim and Mike had a falling out – I can’t remember.

But when Fish was at a Social Whores gig, we would always get him up to sing some stuff with us. He’d do a bunch – and someone would always ask for Dogshit or Words, but only very, very rarely would he do so. We knew the songs, but he didn’t care – he said NO. He would sing anything else, but he didn’t care about that EP stuff anymore, or Antler Joe and the Accidents. He had moved on and was not looking back – crowds asking for it, were shunned.

Tim Lau, when we played, was similarly not eager to get into the older stuff or what it represented. His other stuff was not like Antler Joe, and he was fine with that – as was I…he was fun to play behind. Solid and interesting lead player, by every measure.

Mike would come by the store occasionally, but he and I weren’t friends or anything – we simply knew each other. We would nod “hello” when we saw each other. I never once heard of Antler Joe getting back together though, and Fish had said in no way would it ever happen. Made me think that maybe Mike and Tim didn’t get along. Oh well. So it goes.

Gig On

And so it went for many years – all of us playing in various bands, sometimes hanging out together, drinking, and just being Florida teens and post-teens.

Fish fronted a few bands and I was in a couple on drums behind him – I saw him as a fearless front man, willing to do anything to get a rise out of his audience. John was something to see on stage for sure, and I was happy to be the drummer sometimes. Jesus Fish Superbeer was his persona onstage, and Fish would do anything, and then go further.

He had a stance and delivery that was maybe somewhere between Iggy Pop and Joey Ramone, and he was FEARLESS – which made me laugh all the time. Once on stage, he was the undisputed king – he would do and say absolutely anything he wanted which was not like him, offstage, at all. Offending straight people was always part of it in good punk, and Fish was a true artist in this regard. And a truly good singer too, with tons of heart. One of the smartest dudes I had ever met as well, which was why he was so “weird,” I think.

Tim and I played only a few times, because he was getting ever-closer with his soon-to-be wife, and seemed to be moving away from playing out so much. It was fun hitting it with him and he was an amazingly good player, but we just kinda drifted, as teens and post-teens do.

Personally, I played in some bands and eventually met my own soon-to-be wife, and kinda quit the punk stuff for exploring power pop and rockabilly bands. I switched from drums to guitar and keys. I even recorded some 24-track stuff in the studio (Soundcheck) where Antler Joe and the Accidents had recorded – and life simply moved ahead.

I hardly ever thought about the EP, and maybe only put the needle to Dogshit every couple years at best, for that quick shot of adrenaline it packs. Always makes me smile…but life moved on and the record simply fell from thought.

It Goes Global

Somewhere around the late 90s, some guy on vacation from Germany found the 45 in a Ft. Myers record store (Rainbow Records, probably). He wrote about it in glowing terms in some Euro-based fanzine, and suddenly, the record started becoming known, and in demand. In multiple countries, too.

I had a friend (Joe, of Joe’s Record Exchange, and Fish’s old roommate) who was reselling records for a living, and he suddenly saw demand and price for the EP lift, and keep going. A copy sold for $100, then the next went for more…and then they started getting really crazy. Joe had a few copies, including the last of the ones Fish had in that box where mine had come from, and they sold for hundreds each – every one of them going higher than the last. 5 of them sold online in as many years, ranging from $650-1200 each.

The last one sold was in 2019, for $1200. I was approached for my copy a couple times, but was not ever interested in selling it. I also wrote about it once, stating how sad it was that the band members never saw any money from this at all, but resellers and collectors were making a fortune from them.

And somewhere in there, I heard that Mike Daly died, so he didn’t even get to see how in demand his Antler Joe stuff became – it was a sad story of rock-n-roll from the band’s perspective. But interesting to watch from the outside, for sure.

Enter, Biff

Then in late 2020, I was approached by a guy online (who told me his name was Biff) to see if I would sell mine (NO, was my immediate answer). But we got to talking about it a bit, and he said he had a punk label named Feral Kid Records, and was wondering if the band would be interested in rereleasing it. I checked out Feral Kid’s inventory, and saw it was aligned perfectly with the spirit of Antler Joe and the Accidents – the punk rock vibe was strong.

I told Biff I knew John and Tim (though I hadn’t talked to either guy in years), and that Mike had passed, but I was not going to bring it up to them or introduce him unless they were going to get a piece of the pie this time. I said it was unfair that there were thousands of dollars being spent on the record now, but the band guys who made it happen never got a nickel of it.  Biff agreed immediately, and offered to do it right.

He said he’d be happy to give the guys a bit of every item sold – and also said he had a tshirt business and wanted to make a shirt and wanted to give them money from each one. He wanted to make it affordable to have the record again, and get the band paid as well – I thought it sounded legit, I liked Feral Kid Records and its owner, so I reached out to the guys.

Fish and I were Facebook friends, but had not actually spoken to each other in decades. I sent an email telling him what Biff wanted to do, and we eventually set up a phone call to hash it all out together. I looked forward to reconnecting with my old friend and occasional band mate.

John was still the same – talked a mile a minute, sounding like he was drinking 45 Cokes (which I could only assume was true – he was long addicted to Classic Coke). He told me he had no idea the record was so globally popular, but he was tickled by it. He didn’t seem to hate it as much as he did in the past, and was actually into the idea of us doing the reissue. He was surprised anyone cared about it at all, but was happy to let Biff rerelease it. He just didn’t want anything to do with the work to put it out – which I said, I would do for him. He liked that plan.

I was trying to find the master tape, and John said Mike’s old girlfriend Lori might have it. We talked a bit more, but pretty quickly he said he was feeling really tired and had to go. It all happened super fast, but he got rid of me more quickly than I wanted. John wasn’t much for common pleasantries…but we got along same as we always did. We laughed a few times, we caught up. I said I would keep him emailed about the progress, and to not worry – Biff seemed like a legit guy. I didn’t know it then, but that was to be the last time I ever talked to Fish/John.

Meanwhile I had also reached out to Tim, and he was equally surprised by the success and global demand of the record, but was also happy to let us re-release it. Like John, he was impressed that Biff was willing to cut them in on it, and just didn’t want to mess around with the details. Fair enough, I said, let me handle it – and I contacted Lori to try finding the master tape.

Mastering and Gathering Materials

Lori and I didn’t know each other, but it turns out we had a ton of mutual friends. A couple of my best friends had been hers in the years before I moved to Florida…it was wild. That we didn’t know each other better was a miracle, really. She was really sweet, too.

She had been dating Mike during Antler Joe and the Accidents, and told me that Antler Joe was Mike’s other, “punk” side, his gruffer persona…and Antler Joe was truly just a pissed-off drunk and nowhere near as sweet as Mike was. She was not a huge fan of Mike when he was being Antler Joe, but knew it was part of him.

She showed me the signed copy of her EP, where he told her in an elegant, almost flowery scribe that she made the world less “dogshit.” It was really sweet and nice – made sadder to me, by Mike’s passing. Lori reminded me that the ‘killer sheep’ referenced on the back of the record was John’s mom – named so because of her curly white hair. We talked about how much John adored and protected his mom. We talked about the band and a lot of stuff, and it was wonderful to get to know her.

More importantly to me though, Lori didn’t have the master tapes, nor did she know of them being anywhere. She did however, have a scrapbook with some lovely pictures of the band playing and even some flyers from the super rare Antler Joe shows. These were truly unique and important artifacts, so I copied them, thanked Lori and went to Soundcheck Studios to see if the tapes were still there.

Soundcheck Studios

Soundcheck  is a recording studio in downtown Ft. Myers owned by Jim Becker.  Becker is a drummer, who had played in The Panics which are the OTHER Ft. Myers new wave/punk legends – perhaps a little better known then Antler Joe and the Accidents. I also knew Jim because my roomie used to work for him, and I had recorded there in the 80s.

Becker didn’t know of the master tape being anywhere to be found, but told me only one master was made – it was on a 1/4 reel, and Mike Daly had had it. I didn’t think there was a chance we were going to find it, so Biff and I decided to rip my 45, which was still super clean. We also decided to rip it at Soundcheck, and have Becker be in there, for the mojo of it all.

I brought my record in, and was happy to see Soundcheck was mostly the same as it was it the 80s – a few newer digital machines and monitors, but same carpet, same couch. It brought memories flooding back in.

As we were ripping the 45 (on the same board it had been cut on), Jim told me a great Fish story: the band was hanging around a lot when they were working on the EP, partying like bands do. Fish had passed-out in the studio, when Jim came in late one night to have a meeting with another guy. Jim and the other guy were talking in the office when Fish, staggering like a zombie, came into the office in an apparent blackout. Jim and the other guy said nothing as Fish (who also said nothing) walked across the office, opened a file cabinet drawer, and pissed in it like it was his job. Amazed and bewildered, Jim simply let Fish do his thing, and wander back to pass out again in the studio. Just epic punk stuff there – and it was Fish to a T. 🙂

After I had new digital rips and had drank in all that Soundcheck still was, I wished Jim and Baxter (his engineer) well, and was on my way.

Enter the Opry

One nice thing, is that in the time I was playing power pop, I met and gigged with some amazing musicians. One of them, my old bass player King Williams, is now the lead soundman at The Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville. King had also worked with me and Fish at the record store in Ft. Myers, so when I told him of the reissue effort, he thought it was great and graciously offered to mix and master the record for me at the Opry. Hell yes, I said – and he did an absolutely amazing job with it.

I sent the finished files to Biff, who had them pressed into a test pressing. Biff also laid out the cover graphics from the original files of scans I had sent him – he changed very little from the original design, and made it look fantastic. So when he sent me the test copies I requested, it looked and sounded perfect.

I compared the sound of the original to our Feral Kids’ reissue, and it was a truly great reproduction – hard to tell them apart. I was pretty proud of the work Biff, King, Becker, and I had done so I emailed John and Tim about it. Tim responded pretty quickly and shared our excitement too, but I didn’t hear back immediately from John. I wasn’t worried about it, as he could be pretty hard to reach sometimes. I left a message and continued to handle the details with Biff, like we said.

Biff took one of the original flyers Antler Joe had used for one of its gigs in 1982, and laid out a really cool t-shirt (which he also was giving the band members a slice of, per sale). He designed a cool package deal that included a tshirt and a record for a low price, giving John and Tim both their cuts from every sale made – which was great.

Things were ready to go, and we were almost there – and then I heard why we were not hearing back from John. In true rock-n-roll fashion, John had died from lung cancer just 5 days before the record package was finished. Sigh.

RIP, Jesus Fish Superbeer

It turned out John had been in hospice for a few weeks, being cared for as lung cancer finally took control. That he said nothing to me while it was happening was not surprising.

I attended his funeral (or celebration of life if you must), and many of his friends had no idea John was suffering. He would not have complained that way – he was never a whiner. But a lot of friends of his (and mine) came out to celebrate him – and I got to see his true value through the people who loved him. His impact was vast. He was ultimately honored well, and will be missed. Cheers, my friend.

But it was a fitting end, really, to the Antler Joe and the Accidents story for me. The band members NEVER got their due for what they did. They made a wonderful little record that people all over the world now want to hear, and to have. It sells for more than $1000, but the band doesn’t get paid a penny from those sales.

Fish may have avoided the record at first, but before he died he definitely appreciated it more, and saw it more like other people did…people like me, and Becker, and Biff. Though I didn’t talk to him about it directly, I know that Mike Daly believed in it completely until he died – he knew the record he created was powerful, but he did not live to see the full impact it had. Tim is mostly quiet and humble as always, as understated as it gets.

But the world loves this record, and many people are STILL anxious to get their hands on it. The Feral Kid’s reissue allows new generations of punkers to learn the glory of Dogshit without dropping $2000…Biff did it right. Seeing my own son wearing his Antler Joe and the Accidents shirt makes me enormously happy as mundane as it is – it is a smile for me, every time.

Ultimately, I am happy that I helped to reissue this record, and that the record that new generations of fans will own came from my own: copy #214.

More importantly, it was fun to know, and play with someone as charismatic as John, and as musically talented as Tim. I am sorry John didn’t live to see it all come to fruit, but that is the way rock-n-roll goes sometimes – we’re always just lucky to be a part of it for a fleeting few magical moments.

It’s all dog shit, one might say. Or at least, it should be.