By Thomas Michalski
Merle Allin Senior was a deeply religious, and by all accounts, a deeply disturbed man, so when he decided to name his first child Jesus Christ Allin, the implication was clear: he believed his son was going to be a great man, perhaps even a savior. That the boy would end up being the self-proclaimed savior of rock ‘n’ roll instead had to be the furthest thing from his mind, except, of course, for the extreme lengths his son would go to recover the music’s soul. Only a few short years into the young boy’s life, he would be free from his tyrannical, frightening father and be unofficially rechristened G.G. (a nickname derived from his little brother and future band mate Merle Jr.’s stammering attempts at pronouncing “Jesus”) and plunge headlong into a life-long career -- or a crime spree depending on how you look at it -- that would make him a hero to some, and the most reprehensible villain to others.
“He believed he was the rock and roll messiah and that he was trying to bring danger back into rock and roll” said Merle Jr., after his brother’s 1993 death at the age of 36. He had died from an overdose after a performance at New York’s The Gas Station, a performance that included a near-riot that sent Allin fleeing from the police and irate club owners, barely clothed and covered in blood from smashing through a French glass door. But the chaos that engulfed that night, and the substance abuse that would take his life by the
morning was nothing new for Allin, in fact it was a fairly average Sunday night for the man who was to become known as “the most spectacular degenerate in rock ‘n’ roll history".
By his own count, Allin had been arrested more than 50 times and was in and out of jails around the country, taken in for everything from drunk and disorderly behavior and indecent exposure to attempted murder. Many of these charges were the result of his off-the-wall stage show which regularly included cutting himself with broken bottles, urinating and defecating on stage and on the audience and breaking any other taboo possible. What’s more, he often promised to commit suicide onstage on Halloween, but that final bow was preempted by his overdose. It is worth noting that there are antecedents to this type of expression, including a long history of performance art involving bodily fluids and mutilation (Genesis P-Orridge’s pre-Throbbing Gristle COUM shows spring immediately to mind) and the near suicidal stage presence of Iggy Pop, but Allin displayed no hint of intellectualization in his shows, no apparent statement or purpose beyond wreaking his revenge on a “robotic society”. He often remarked that if it wasn’t for rock ‘n’ roll, he likely would have become a serial killer, which may have just been yet another provocation, but was also a frighteningly real possibility; even his friends realized Allin’s unique “genius” was the result of mental problems, or, as the state of Michigan enumerated them, “alcohol dependency, mixed with personality disorder with borderline narcissistic and masochistic features and antisocial personality disorder.”
Boasting charming song titles like “Suck My Ass It Smells” and “Shit On My Prick”, Allin’s recorded output was just as transgressive as his live shows, if less likely to transmit disease or cause infection. He was backed by a handful of different bands, including the Jabbers, the Scumfucs, the AIDs Brigade and, most famously, the Murder Junkies, but Allin often acknowledged that the band wasn’t exactly necessary. “Sometimes I don’t even have a band,” he said in an interview, “I’ll just play to a tape, but it’s gonna come out one way or another.” Given this couldn’t-care-less attitude toward releasing his music, an official discography is near impossible, a situation exacerbated by years of tracks shuffled across countless bootlegs. For the most part, Allin’s recordings are pretty standard thrashy, lo-fi punk, albeit containing the most politically incorrect lyrics imaginable, but he also ventured into spoken word and country tunes, inspired by one of his musical heroes, Hank Williams, another famously troubled, addicted rebel.
Depending on your perspective, Allin’s outrageous antics could easily be interpreted either as social commentary or as sociopathy, but one thing is for certain: whatever he did, he did it his way, and even if you find his work completely offensive, or just kind of brainless, you should at least walk away with a bit of respect for the fearlessness with which he lived and dared reimagine rock in his own image. Though he eventually gained the martyrdom he obviously craved, it would probably be inaccurate to say he “saved” rock, but he at least revived the word as something that scares the shit out of parents and moral guardians everywhere. And for that, God bless him.