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Two reunions, a book and 25 years later, all Government Cheese want to do is rock

The Cheese Incident

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Twenty-five years ago, rock bands were happening around here like you wouldn't believe. There were giants in those days: Jason & the Scorchers, The Questionnaires, The White Animals, Walk the West, Raging Fire, The Dusters, Royal Court of China, Tim Krekel & the Sluggers, In Pursuit, Rumble Circus, Manikenz, The Movement, Clockhammer, King Bub, Jet Black Factory, Shadow 15, Practical Stylist, Webb Wilder, a million others. Rock 'n' roll bands were everywhere, coming out of manholes, dropping from trees, and you tripped over them on the sidewalk — sometimes literally, depending on the hour of the day. Nashville was ground zero for some of the greatest and most exciting rock 'n' roll I've ever heard in my life. Those guys and girls with funny hair were gods to me. They were the coolest people on the planet. It was a special time to be alive.

My band was from an hour north in Bowling Green. We didn't even really count. Not at first, anyway. We were provincials, and worse yet, nice boys who went to college and shot ourselves in the feet with hambone comedy: my tunes about Vanna White and fish sticks, Billy's songs about his Mammaw, and his moose-gooser and duck-plucker poems, Skot's pulling condoms down over his head and inflating them until they'd fly off his head, things like that. We couldn't help it. We were fun guys. And some of those songs we wrote were funny as shit. I'll stack 'em up next to Mojo Nixon any day of the week.

However, some of our songs were also very good. Creative Loafing called us "Scorcher-lite and derivative." I'll take that, but still, the songs were good. We wrote some good shit. We worked hard, toured hard, grew big, wore glasses if we needed 'em, and through doggedness and not giving up, we earned a measure of respect. And our playing, which at first wasn't so hot, grew by leaps and bounds over time. By the time we broke up in 1992, we were packing Exit/In, Main Street in Murfreesboro, Picasso's in Bowling Green, Tewligans in Louisville, the Wrocklage in Lexington, the Tip Top in Huntsville, the Nick in Birmingham, the Library in Knoxville, the Big Apple in Puryear, Hangar 9 in Carbondale, Cicero's in St. Louis — we were all over the place. Someday, I thought, this'll all make one hell of a book.

That book turned out to be Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock 'n' Roll Band You've Never Heard Of. It came out three years after the band's demise in 1995. Around town I became The Guy Who Wrote That Book. I like being that guy. (Having that on my résumé is how I'm allowed to write my own article about my own band's upcoming gig, in case you've wondered.)

Five years ago, I called up the old manager I'd written (frankly) about in said book. I called him during the Super Bowl so I knew he wouldn't answer. When we did connect, I was nervous, but I've got to give him props: There was no rancor. It was simple. I wanted to buy the rights to all our old masters and put out a Government Cheese retrospective — and he was equally happy to sell me the rights.

Last October saw the release of Government Cheese: 1985-1995. (The three extra years are because we made a reunion single when the book came out, and went on tour, making us the only band I know of who staged a tour in support of a book.)

This past weekend we played the first of two reunion shows in Bowling Green. It was so great that I'm now questioning my whole singer-songwriter career. I want to get in a van right now and plug in my loud amp somewhere and bang my head and guzzle Metamucil while the two surviving remnants of my thinning Nixon widow's peak fly around like Wyatt Earp's moustache on the top of my head. I want to be young again, sling that Telecaster around and to hell with those two bulging discs in my lower back. Let's rock.

And this coming Saturday, we're going to do it again — rock, that is — at The Rutledge on Fourth Avenue South. Perhaps you think I've buried the lead here, but it matters not, as the show's sold out. And I'm jumping for joy about what old vets I'll see from the days of Reagan and major labels and Whyte Lace's limousine double-parked on the Rock Block. It'll be a joyous night, and I'll once again be young and in love with that scene, taken adrift for days afterwards in a patchouli cloud kicked up out of the glorious memories of misspent youth.

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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