One of the most frequently asked about
episodes in the brief life of The Bags is the
infamous 'Trashing of the Troubadour" show.
Like all good stories, this one has different
versions, depending on who you ask. Below is
But first, a little historical context:
Doug Weston's Troubadour was already a
semi-legendary West Hollywood nightclub by
the late 1970's, having been instrumental in
launching the careers of alt-country soft
rockers like The Byrds, Jackson Browne, Linda
Ronstadt and The Eagles. Alice's high school
idol, Elton John, had his U.S. debut here. John
Lennon had once been famously 86'd from the
club for "aggressive heckling."
By the time The Bags were kicking and
scratching their way through L.A.'s punk clubs,
the Troubadour had become home to
musicians like Rickie Lee Jones, Chuck E.
Weiss and Tom Waits. No one knows why they
decided to allow The Bags to play. The club had
a tradition of helping new talent get their feet
wet. Perhaps they saw punk as just a new
twist on good ole rock n' roll. Or maybe they
coveted the long lines of kids for the "New
Wave" shows at the Whisky-a-Go-Go.
Whatever the reason, the stage was set for a
confrontation between the older generation of
mellow rockers and the rowdy young fans of
The Bags, a confrontation that would lead to a
ban on punk rock at the Troubadour and
provide a taste of the violence to come in the
"First, let me say that I enjoyed reading the chapter
about this incident in Brendan Mullen's book
because the story changed significantly depending
on who was telling it. It reminded me of the movie
"Rashomon," where you get the same story, told
from different perspectives. Of course, my version is
the true version ; )
It all started at Canter's (a Fairfax district deli which
is open all night and was a hangout for musicians
and club-goers). I was with a group of friends and we
were leaving Canter's. I remember standing at the
pastry section, just ogling all the pastries we couldn't
afford when my friend Lauren said "Let me say
something to my friend," who happened to be Tom
Waits. I had no idea who Tom Waits was, at that time.
So Lauren came back over and then introduced the
group of us to Tom Waits and his entourage. I
probably said, "We're playing at the Troubadour,
please come see our show" because it was right
around that time. I might have smiled or winked or
something that was interpreted as flirting, but keep
in mind that my boyfriend, Nickey Beat, was with us at
Later, Lauren came back to us and said "Tom Waits
really liked you. He thinks you were great and he
wanted to know who the dipshit was that was with
you." When Nickey heard that, he was pissed.
Anyway, I thought it was all forgotten by the night of
the Troubadour show, but then someone came
backstage to tell us that Tom Waits was in the
audience, at a table in front of the stage. Nickey was
playing drums for The Bags that night and he was
livid. Just before the Bags went onstage, Nickey got
on the mic and called Tom Waits an asshole from the
stage. So then Tom Waits was pissed off and he and
his entourage sat there at their little table through
our entire set while bedlam erupted all around them.
He was very cool, just sitting there while the place
was being ripped apart. I remember looking over at
one point and seeing a chair fly right over his head
but he didn't flinch.
The Bags played our usual chaotic set and the
audience was in a frenzy. Afterwards, we were
"What an amazing show," and when we went to load
out our equipment, the bouncers locked the doors
and told us we couldn't leave until the whole matter
between Nickey and Tom had been settled. I started
to freak out because it was just us and these really
burly bouncers, all our punk friends had been locked
outside of the club. Somehow, word spread that we
were in trouble and the punks were trying to kick in
the club doors to get inside, but the bouncers were
poking people in the face to keep them out. I
remember trying desperately to open the doors and
thinking "they're going to wreck our equipment and
beat the shit out of us," but none of that happened.
What did happen was that the bouncers and
members of Tom Waits' entourage made a circle
around Nickey and Tom so that no one could
interfere and then they let the two guys duke it out. I
couldn't tell you if there was a winner or a loser. I'd
say it was pretty even and they got their aggression
out. When the scuffle was over, they let us leave
after promising never to play at the Troubadour
again. It was the first and last punk show at the
Troubadour for quite some time.
Ironically, it ended up at Canter's Deli again after the
show. I heard about a group of punks who went there
and started a 'legendary' food fight with the members
of Tom Waits' entourage."
|The Bags, backstage at the Troubadour.
|Standing In The Wreckage.
Borrowed from "We Got The Neutron Bomb" by Brendan Mullen and Marc Spitz
|Archival video footage of the Bags performing "Violence Girl" at the
Troubadour in West Hollywood, 1978. Original video is permanently
maintained in the UCLA Film & TV Archives.
Courtesy of Cynthia Gianelli & Paul Allen Newell