Dirty, Drunk And Punk by Jennifer Morton
Released by: Insomniac Press
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It seems that every major city has had a ‘punk house’ at some point. Los Angeles had the Stern Brothers and Skinhead Manor, among others, New York City had and still has C-Squat on the Lower East Side, and Toronto had Fort Goof. The ringleader at Fort Goof, which was essentially a 24/7 booze can inhabited by a group of crusty street punks, was a young man named Steve Johnson, better known around the city as Crazy Steve Goof. When, on a dare, Steve was asked to form a band to open for a touring hardcore act called United State, the Bunchofuckingoofs were born – named as such so that they could essentially make fun of their lack of experience before the audience could.
The Bunchofuckingoofs, abbreviated as the BFGs, would soon become more than just a band and more than just a bunch of punk kids wasted on Molson Export. With their base of operations located dead center in the middle of Kensington Market, Toronto’s answer to New York’s Lower East Side and a fairly tough neighborhood throughout the eighties, the BFGs took on a presence not so far removed from The Guardian Angels. With a minor Nazi skinhead problem plaguing Toronto and other parts of Ontario at the time, the BFGs made it their mantra to keep the skins out of Kensington and to keep hard drug dealers out of the area as well. With Steve’s past having involved a lot of hard drug use, he learned from experience to keep smack and coke away and while various members would relapse and maybe not stick to those rules so strictly, for the most part hard drugs were frowned upon.
Into this scene were a colorful cast of characters with nicknames like Thor, Mad Dog, Scrag and King Kong – but throughout it all Crazy Steve remained the main man in charge, enforcing his ‘laws’ with a bike chain and a big loyal dog named Dirt. The BFGs valued dogs over people, road bikes instead of cars and drank insane amounts of beer and somehow managed to put out a few recordings and play a whole lot of shows, many of which remain some of the most notorious in the history of Toronto’s music scene.
If that all sounds like an interesting story, a strange hybrid of substance abuse, punk rock, vigilante justice and politics, that’s because it is and Jennifer Morton’s book, Dirty Drunk and Punk sums it all up very well indeed. Canadian punk rock geeks of the era will likely remember fondly buying Fringe Records product and sifting through the catalogues always enclosed within, for many of us our first exposure to bands like The Dayglo Abortions and even the Dead Kennedys who were distributed in Canada by the label at the time, and seeing listings for the BFG’s Carnival Of Chaos And Carnage album proudly displayed alongside other acts. While they may not have the output of Canadian acts like Nomeansno, D.O.A., the aforementioned Dayglos (recently deported from these United States, sadly!) or even The Forgotten Rebels their legacy is no less important. Frequently playing shows with acts like Armed And Hammered and Random Killing their live act usually involved fights, beer chugging, broken televisions, bloodshed, and sometimes guest appearance by the band members’ dogs. Morton, who worked for CityTV on their late, lamented New Music series, captures the insanity and camaraderie of the scene incredibly well while the insane amount of never before published photographs, set lists, concert flyers, artwork and even flyers for Steve’s run for office do an amazing job of giving you a feel for what it had to have been like. Of course, it can only go so far in regards to ‘putting you there’ but as a document of an important part of the Toronto underground music scene that once was and a look into the life of the man who spearheaded it all, this book is invaluable.
A true ‘warts and all’ presentation Morton’s book covers the pros of the movement but doesn’t skirt around the cons either. Part nostalgia trip for those of us who lived in Toronto during the time that the BFGs were prominent (I remember seeing the flyers but sadly never saw them live) and part snapshot of a uniquely Canadian part of the punk rock movement, this book is worth its weight in gold for the pictures alone. The fact that it captures as many stories as it does and that it does so with both humor and insight makes it a fascinating read worthy of a place on the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in the history of punk rock.
To get a sneak peak at the book, click here (do it just to check out some of the awesome photographs!).