Vast Majority

What Do You Want to Be CD (H2D Archive Series #201)

"Vast Majority was formed in early 1979 as an outgrowth of a stupid fictional punk band I had been writing about called Shit Snotnose and the Scabsuckers. The Scabsuckers were in turn inspired by my having seen the Sex Pistols on the "Weekend" TV show in 1978 and the subsequent purchase of their album, for which the hippie clerks at Evolution Records on Bellaire laughed at me...

The original line-up was Chris Armeniades (Merry Prankster) on guitar, John Svatek (Damien Antisocial) on bass, Billy Mandel (Demon Alcohol) on drums and me, Scott Telles on vocals & trumpet (Bergen-Belsen).

We never actually practiced until we saw a flyer for the Rock Against Racism show with our name on it and thought, hmmm, we'd better get busy..."

The Houston punk-scene was highly politicized -and not just because of overzealous police. The Direct Action Committee was the University of Houston chapter of the Yippies, and Henry Weissborn (who'd edited their counterculture 'zine Ultra) booked New York's Joy Ryder & Avis Davis to headline an outdoor show at U.H. on April Fools' Day 1979. Really Red and Christian Oppression [later the Hates] were on the bill along with the first-ever appearances of AK-47 and Vast Majority (Early appearances of Really Red and Legionaires Disease were also at Yippie events). Naturally the show got canceled, but the Yippies managed to relocate to Houston's punk-friendly Paradise Island club.

"We wrote about six songs at our first practice with some outside lyrical help and played. It was gloriously terrible. (Dale Brooks of the Video Boys has the show on tape!) The original line-up played about four shows and then for the 5/26/79 show with the Huns at Paradise Island we supplemented ourselves with Henry Weissborn on guitar and Wayne "Cute" Collins on, I think, some kind of accordion. It was even more dreadful than usual, so we kicked them off midway through the set. This, however, was the end of the original Vast Majority, as, shortly after this, Chris sold his guitar to buy acid and John had to give his bass back to its owner Steve "Pope" Brueggerhoff. (Steve had filled in for Stormin Norman of Legionaires Disease at their/our infamous High Noon Saloon show/riot.)"

4/15/79: A biker pours a pitcher of beer on Legionaires Disease David Tolbert's guitar. Unpleasantness ensues. Police, too. Singer Jerry Anomie ends up naked onstage, screaming "I ain't leavin' til we get paid!" It's the last punk show at the High Noon.

VM soon regrouped with Henry on guitar and Wayne on bass.

Along with his Yippie activities, Henry Weissborn was a dedicated collector of 60s obscurities, and the editor of Wild Dog fanzine which covered the Houston punk-scene and debuted at about the same time as Vast Majority. PunX fanzine's history of the '79 scene said: "Henry soon picked up the name 'Henry Bad-Guitar,' which may seem like a mean thing to say. But Henry's attitude exemplifies a central part of punk: not being ashamed of a garage sound- starting where you are and working to maybe get better" Version #2 of Vast Majority promptly (if briefly) gets banned from Paradise Island. PunX recounts it was "because of 'political controversiality' according to one source and because of 'bad playing' according to another." A month later VM and Legionaires Disease play a Skylab party at the 'Island.

March 16, 1980 saw Vast Majority's lone studio session: three songs from which appeared on Henry's Wild Dog label: " I Wanna Be A Number," "God's Groin" and "Throwdown." Two other tracks ("Poor Sid / Duke is Dead") went unreleased until Ryan Richardson's Sacred Cattle compilation.

Vast Majority played with the Huns at Raul's in June '79, and opened for them whenever they came to Houston, including their final[?] set 5/10/80 --which was also the last gig by the Plastic Idols... VM's "biggest" show was probably at Rock Island [Paradise Island changed their name] opening for XTC and Wazmo Nariz, except they canceled. The Majority enjoyed the fancy sound-system "specially rented by the Island for the occasion but still not good enough for those wussies XTC" but unfortunately no one taped it.

"Finally, Wayne flaked out. He stopped showing up for practice and joined the Wild Bores with Tellie Ego [lead singer of the Egos], so we got cute punkette Caroline Caustic [editor of Bondage fanzine] on bass. At this point we were getting somewhat less terrible. Walter Wolff joined the band on guitar for the broadcast on KPFT, live in their backyard with the Tix."

Walter Wolff was a founding member of AK-47 (also Urban Guerilla and Dog's Breakfast: he was featured in Wild Dog #1). But the arrival of a more, um, serious (and metal-minded) guitarist spelt trouble for the Majority. Henry and Caroline wanted to keep things raw, while Billy (having wearied of the "bad-guitar" thing) refused to go into the studio without Walter So the session got canceled, and the 6/80 KPFT set became Vast Majority's final recordings. One last VM gig in August was unpleasant and anarchic (in an apolitical sense), with the quarreling parties playing different songs at the same time...

Scott and Billy went off to Austin for college, switched instruments and messed around for a bit as the Grinning Souls. Henry briefly joined a band called Rancid (who cut a [lost] demo of Duke is Dead), then retired. Scott did the Elegant Doormats next, and in 1987 he launched ST37, who're still happily cranking out CDs, vinyl and tapes on Scott's (blue circle) label. Tapes of the radio concert survived, which you could actually buy from Scott on cassette through the 1990s. There's hardly any photos of the band, but Scott carefully preserved cassettes of practice sessions and a couple other shows, and, well, here you are...

-Scott Telles (and H2D) 2003

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