The 10 best FEAR songs by Lee Ving
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Covered by the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Soundgarden, and A Perfect Circle, Fear's debut album The Record was ranked among Kurt Cobain's top 50 albums of all time in his journals. With the US punk legends finally announcing their long overdue debut shows in the UK, we talk to frontman Lee Ving's about his top 10 tunes, and discover why one of punk's most vilified and wilfully offensive bands are also one of the most misunderstood.
I LOVE LIVIN' IN THE CITY (The Record, 1982)
“It's among the first songs I wrote for Fear. It was about my odyssey into New York City as a young person from Philadelphia, and what I saw around me was bleak in the extreme. I lived in an apartment in Manhattan, and what I saw all around me were drunks crawling through the gutter, looking in all ways like they were trying to die or get something to eat, which became part of the lyrics of one of these masterpieces.”
I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU (The Record, 1982)
“It was amongst the initial offerings from the Fear conglomerate, and it was met with such a resounding welcome by the people who showed up to do what they do in front of the stage. It became an anthem of ours, as did I Love Livin' In The City, and maybe I was finding, in the simplicity of these chords, something that was able to reach the masses. It was also covered by Soundgarden and Guns N’ Roses, and, of course, contains an expletive of great common popularity, for better or for worse.”
CAMARILLO (The Record, 1982)
“That was based on a visit to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, and what I saw there, in the women's severely psychotic ward, was enough to blow a young mind, and anyone who would ever see that would never be the same. It's an enormous problem, it's ill taken care of, and it's not receiving the attention that it needs. To see how the state filters down what's necessary to people who are sick is heart-rending, it's disgusting, and a dereliction of duty in every respect. These poor people are being warehoused, they're not being treated. Because of budget cuts by the assholes who have the power to oversee that kind of thing, jail is now the alternative.”
FUCK YOU LET'S RODEO (Have Another Beer with FEAR, 1995)
“I was at the National Finals Rodeo in Austin, Texas, with my wife and son, and we were walking through to get something to eat and I saw this kid pull up in this really dirty old pick-up truck. In the dirt on the windows, he'd written 'Fuck you, let's rodeo!' He pulled up into this area where there was families having refreshments in between events, and the Austin Police Department noticed what was written on this window. They were hassling this poor kid no end, and they made him wipe it off, but he didn't wipe it off before I saw it, so sure enough it became the title of this song.”
MORE BEER (More Beer, 1985)
“We recorded the More Beer record in Cherokee Studios in Hollywood. I was able to buy downtime from them for cheap, as long as I didn't mind getting there at 3am. When the record was done I invited everyone I knew to this listening party, and about the second hour of this little gathering there was quite a bit of inebriation going on. I was looking for one of the bottles, and decided act a little more inebriated and breathed those memorable words, 'There's another cold one way down here at the bottom', and I've heard that back so many times! It's been an enduring quote over the years, and that's an ode to alcohol, if you will. Along with Have A Beer With Fear that's part of the trilogy that I try to impart to audiences, along with I Believe I'll Have Another Beer.”
NEW YORK'S ALRIGHT IF YOU LIKE SAXOPHONES (The Record, 1982)
“It seemed to me, as a young man when I moved to New York City, looking for some rock 'n' roll things to do, that every musician hiding behind a tree would poke his head out from behind that tree with a tenor saxophone in his hand. Jazz was what ruled New York, which, of course, it does and always has, and after being a taxi driver, getting robbed, and all of that New York taxi driver experience, I graduated from the International School Of Bartenders, and took at job at Slug's Jazz Cafe on 3rd Street, a war-zone of a neighbourhood, and got to see all the jazz notables of incredible degree, in this little apartment that had been turned into a jazz club. I absorbed every note and sound like a sponge. The initial inspiration for New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones was to be complaining, like, 'Where's all the rock 'n' rollers?' But as I was exposed to it more and more I saw the value and the place, not that I haven't always loved it, having grown up on John Coltrane records. I was looking for rock 'n' roll in the jazz capital of the world, when sometimes you should embrace what's going on around you.”
LEGALIZE DRUGS (Have Another Beer with FEAR, 1995)
“It was a message I wanted to get out that, were it legalised, which is a bridge we're attempting to cross politically in this country, it would save so much human anguish and enormous expenditure to house people who are not criminals, and who are only using what is now legal is some places for medicinal purposes. I just thought it would be good for everyone if that happened. And people wouldn't be killed by buying from thugs off the street, who don't care; they'd be buying from government agencies, which would at least be safer for them. As the songs says, ‘We've got the largest prison population in the world and we could cut that in half if we legalise drugs’.”
PUBLIC HANGINGS (Have Another Beer with FEAR, 1995)
“It's my attempt to say that, yes, unfortunately it appears necessary to have capital punishment in order to keep the things that qualify for capital punishment at a dull roar, but it obviously doesn't prevent them, so what good is it? And yet things might get totally out of control and go haywire if we remove it. It's a double-edged sword, and I'm not able to see the answer, but in it's ridiculousness of being a public spectacle... My God, what kind of public do we have? 'We'll have hot-dogs and beer/There'll be music by Fear'... Are we a blood-thirsty mob as human beings? We'll have musical entertainment while they lynch this poor bastard!”
WELCOME TO THE DUST WARD (More Beer, 1985)
“I intentionally wanted to start the song really slow to piss the crowd off, and then give them what they want and make it really fast so they can get their angst out. It was also based on the field trip I took in high school to a psychiatric ward, which affected me forever; people being drugged out so they're not a disciplinary problem. One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest was also a vast inspiration to me, as I saw that movie and then recalled my high school field trip. Jack Nicholson's performance, where they're going to do a frontal lobotomy on him because he's a disciplinary problem and he's smart, it's sickening and it's sad. That movie affected me so deeply.”
WE DESTROY THE FAMILY (The Record, 1982)
“I think it was my statement on what had been the general reaction to family; that family can be corrosive, that family is also completely of great value. It's a double-sided coin, and I wanted to say something about that. Nothing is capable of getting so deep into your heart before it starts ripping it apart, as that. It's among the deepest things we have to deal with, like being married and having your wife tell you that she doesn't love you any more. It's those sort of deep seated feelings that I was trying to get in touch with.”
Fear make their UK debut at London O2 Islington Academy on August 4. Support comes from JFA, Reagan Youth, Naked Aggression and Red Light Rebels.