By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In January of 1978, Mark pressed us to start playing in public. Steve and I were less enthusiastic, feeling the band was more recreational than anything else, but we went along with the idea. Mark had been systematically recording rehearsals, so he put together a demo tape to submit to the punk club of the time, the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco. This forced the issue of a name. After many agonizing hours combing the special collections in the Moffett Library, we arrived at “the Maids.” The name was a heartfelt paean to Jean Genet (via his play) and a more general tribute to the S&M aspect of servitude (exemplified in Buñuel‘s Diary of a Chambermaid). Actually, we were sitting around M&P’s (Mark and Patty‘s) kitchen trying to come up with a name and there was a box of Honey Maid Grahams on the table, and Steve said, “Why not the Maids?”
Swathed in our leather jackets, we took promotional photographs against a brick wall holding a silver platter containing a heart-shaped cake (baked by Patty). Piped across the top of the white cake in black frosting was the word Maids. Next we invented names for ourselves. Steve was Red Snapper, Mark was Chuck Menses and I was John Ritalin. Because we were all major-league pansies about promoting the band, Steve’s girlfriend, Frances Politeo, whose family organized with the United Farm Workers, acted as our rep. She submitted our photo, bio and tape to the Mabuhay, requesting a gig.
As best I can estimate, the Maids had exactly one serious fan. That was Patty, Mark‘s paramour. Patty would frequently come through the garden window (which she used as a door) and jump around as we practiced. She was full of encouragement. Her enthusiasm suggested that the band had a future outside the garage. That dream was probably also shared by Wes Hester, whose house was just behind the garage. Wes had a preschool at his home that began each day at 7 a.m. As the Maids rehearsed late into the night, he’d bang the back wall of the garage and scream at us to stop playing. We thought it was funny, so we never stopped. The beauty of Wes was that we never once saw him. He was just a disembodied voice pounding on the wall and screaming in the middle of the night. Why he never called the cops remains a mystery. Maybe he feared going to war with the anarchists.
In addition to my straight job and Maids activities, Steve and I team-taught a film class at a private Berkeley high school called Maybeck, whose campus was located in a Methodist church right across the street from the university. We got wind that Maybeck was putting on a music show that featured a student band. On a whim, we asked if the Maids could play. As we were not getting paid for teaching, the school gave us the go-ahead. Shortly thereafter, we heard from the Mabuhay. It booked us to play on Monday, May 1, 1978.
On April 21, 1978, the Maids played their first public gig in front of the Maybeck student body. The band that played before us did a Dead-influenced set of long jams and space music. By contrast, the fast pace and punk attitude of our set generated some heat with the audience of 40 kids. Given the amount of tuning problems and false starts we had, that was a minor miracle. At one point Mark was so embarrassed by the fuckups that he stormed offstage. But somehow the set worked despite itself, and after the last song I took a pair of wire cutters and cut all the strings off my guitar, announcing, “No encores.”
The momentum of the gigs was abetted by the notion of recording. Bruce Lancer, a character we knew from film school (listed in the S.F. phone directory as Django Reinhardt), was trying to put together a compilation of Bay Area groups to be presented by Novak, a local performer who billed himself as “the Bobby Sherman of Punk.” Lancer hooked us up with Lee Parvin, who had an 8-track recording studio in his house in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco. The week following our Maybeck gig we took our meager equipment -- Mark‘s mongrel drum kit, a generic bass, the Airline guitar and the Gibson mini-amp -- and quickly recorded two songs I had written: “Back to Bataan” and “I Do I Do.” We played the songs live, and I added the vocal tracks afterward. From start to finish we were in the studio for four hours, and the session cost us a total of $82. We were now ready to conquer the Mabuhay.
Or so we thought. Because of my job at Business Products, Mark and Steve had to handle getting the equipment to the club and doing the sound check without me. When I finally joined them, I found that they weren’t talking. They had had a major blowout during the afternoon. It went downhill from there. Before a Monday-night audience of 15, we took the stage and proceeded to melt down. The guitar amp, which was borrowed, fed back horribly. Steve and I were radically out of tune. We slogged through two numbers, breaking a guitar string along the way. Someone in the front began showering us with what I thought was confetti. After receiving a beer shower, I realized it was actually baskets of popcorn being tossed by a disgruntled listener. During the third or fourth song, Dirk Dirksen, the infamous impresario of the Mabuhay, came onstage and gave us the hook. The experience was dispiriting to the point of being painful. a