Where perhaps better known shock rockers are content to indulge their more excessive impulses, Manhattanite Demon Pope (D.P.) Briggs had always remained tasteful enough to delight as well as inspire. More Arthur Brown than Alice Cooper, Briggs challenged the dominant social paradigms of his time—the early 1970s—without aiming to offend. While he the swath of proto-punk mayhem he cut across the concert stage was as wide as the smile he wore while doing so, Briggs became famous for marrying rock pandemonium and anarchist stage antics with courtesy, respect, and a stickin’-it-to-the-Man sense of cleaning up after yourself.
On the track “Expletive Deleted,” for example, D.P. snarls: “No need to say it, we all know it’s presumed/They can’t hear you cursing, but it’s kind of assumed!”
Often staying around after concerts to shake hands, pose for photographs and autograph copies of his only album, 1972’s This Is How G*d Made Me (And I’m Okay With It) and mop up his own spilled excrement, Demon Pope earned a reputation as the deplorable, nauseatingly in-your-face rock performer with a heart of gold. Inspiring hordes within the burgeoning rock-and-roll subculture, many of whom followed in Briggs’ muddied footsteps (Florida-based industrial electronic outfit Genitorturers, baby-faced Canuck punk personality George Stromboulopoulos), he was the hardcore rock singer you could bring home to mother.
Terminal Laughter received an advance copy of Briggs’ forthcoming literary biography, Bloody Skullcap, Broken Dreams: My Dizzying Journey to the Frontiers of Taste (PukeHouse Press, $32.95). The following is a short excerpt from Chapter Two, “Learning to Shit.”
…Looking back, I suppose the day I knew I was destined for rock ‘n’ rolling superstardom was when I was just some scampy eight year old prick. Heck, I was more or less like any other upper-crust kid: private schools, private washroom, reservations at the fanciest surf or turf joints on birthdays…You know the drill.
Then one day (and like I say, I was just eight) I began to see the forest for the bullshit (pardon my French, ladies). There I was, heading into the kitchen to roast a tomato, and what do I see but my dear old dad—family man, disciplinarian, belletrist—anally raping my mother, sister, the dog and six women I’ve never seen before in a pile of his own feces, urine and I’m pretty sure some vomit too. Now as you’d probably imagine, I’ve seen some pretty fulsome expressions of humanity’s repressed animalistic tendencies being outwardly manifested in my day, and you all know ol’ D.P. ain’t exactly the kind to get startled easy. But this just about did ‘er.
“Jesus, Daddy Boy!” I hollered, “In our own kitchen? Where mom used to bathe me and Deb in the sink? Where we keep the goddamn breakfast cereal, for Chrissakes!” Sure, I saluted pop’s rejection of the fascist regulation of so-called “decent behaviour,” but did he have to be such a slob about it? It was later that day that I’d sit down at the harmonium and write my first song, “Fart Puker (Don’t Forget to Put the Seat Down)”. Of course you all know it. It’s been part of my dangerously considerate stage show for years. But maybe what you didn’t know is how the events of that traumatic day inspired the spit, piss, vile and vinegar on that lyric sheet. It’s like I sing: “Fart puker, Puke Farter, you’re stupid horseshit is fake!/I’ll use a wet paper towel to clean the mess that you make!/Puke farter, fart puker, go forth and rape!/But call her the next day, what does it take?!”
I guess from a young age I knew that, well hell yeah, society, and religion and the government and the world is just a pack of lies and that really we’re all just barbarians in half-Windsor knotted neckties and polished penny loafers. But what would it hurt to try and be better than that? To bring a little decorum to the whole thing, you know? I probably said it best on “Anarchist Allowance”: “Take out the trash, your mother told you so, son/You can be anti-establishment when your chores are done!”
This is exactly the kind of thing that made me different. People knew that I knew that the world, and that “God,” and capitalism, and the Bible were a tightly-coiled pile of cow plop, but I also threw some messages in there that could really appeal to the kids and their parents. You get a bigger audience that way, and really, isn’t that what we want? I mean any asshole can give himself a bunch of bad tattoos with a Bic pen and a paper clip, or get up on stage, take a shit on a microphone, come all over the drummer and smash Jim Beam bottles over his skull, but by that point it’s just preaching to the choir, if you follow me. There’s nothing to believe in.
Yep. You’ve got to dress it up a bit, that way more mothers will let their kids buy the tapes and you’ll be doing better work. I mean if the foundations of our neo-fascist liberal pansy police state crumble in the woods, you know?
Take for example, “Dog Shit Holiday,” one of the first singles I released on an underground cassette when I was 14. I mean this puppy took off. Moms were buying it for their sons’ birthday parties. Kids were passing it on to each other and having listening parties down at the rec centre. It was a big deal. And it’s all about how, a) vacations and family holidays are a dog shit excuse for family togetherness feebly held together by a bunch of idiotic Polaroids and b) if you’re going to plan a family vacation, you should do so well in advance to avoid any unnecessary reservation fees. I mean the lyric “Napalms fumes of death at the cruise ship buffet” only works if I mention to “Book using a reputable travel agent, it’s the only way.” What does it hurt to be a little conscientious?
Anyways, it was that formative day, when I caught my dad making a mess in the kitchen in that punk rock primal scene, that I saw my destiny laid down before me. One hand in the septic tank of our society, the other helping an elderly woman wash her hair, I knew that the only way punk rock would sell is if we made it accessible, teaching the kids the sedition and some basic level of chivalry ain’t so necessarily opposed. It was years earlier that I learned to shit, but it was only then that I saw that a clean, thorough ass-wiping is makes the whole thing, well, more wholesome…