It’s like a blearily-remembered TV series that was canceled after a season-and-a-half, never to go into syndication. This particular entity might be totally forgotten, but for its place as a stepping stone for a young Duff McKagan’s road to Guns N’ Roses and the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, and one remarkable recently-recovered artifact, this mini-LP THE LIVING: 1982.
It started in a basement, like every Seattle story does. Duff, at 17, had already appeared on 45s by Fastbacks and the Vains (even penning his first song “The Fake”). Carrying on with Vains cohort Chris Utting, pal Todd Fleischman was assigned bass duties for the new act. “With me and Chris — Chris Crass as he was called then — playing both guitar and drums,” Duff recalls. “we’d switch off halfway through the set. It was a little awkward.” Still, The Living was a blast, channeling the Clash, Germs, Generation X, with originals by both Chris and Duff, and punk-fired covers like “Beg, Borrow And Steal (Ohio Express) and “You’re A Better Man Than I” (Yardbirds/Sham 69).
After Utting moved on, Greg Gilmore, a drummer from Gig Harbor, answered an ad in local free music monthly The Rocket. Says Greg: “I didn’t know anyone… I drove out to Laurelhurst and this giant guy with blue hair answered the door.” Greg was schooled on Deep Purple’s Made In Japan, and could, in giant Todd’s words “play anything, in any style.” With Duff on guitar, Gilmore’s muscular drumming, and the addition of frontman/vocalist John Conte, The Living hit another level. “John actually knew how to sing,” said Fleischman. “He had good stage presence… a Roger Daltrey type. And Duff and I, just said, ‘we’re gonna downstroke the whole fuckin’ set!’”
They opened for DOA in Vancouver and Seattle (I personally remember seeing Duff smash his head into the ceiling and finishing the set on his knees). “DOA was basically like my Kiss”, McKagan recalls in awe. With the band at top gear, they went into a studio for a day, with no plans or ideas how to release it.
The resulting session attests to the furious power of The Living at their peak. We are left with seven McKagan originals, delivered in pure blasts of adrenaline. The killer arrangements belie the youth and relative inexperience of the members. The angst and anger in protest songs like “Live By The Gun” and “Two Generation Stand” are delivered with conviction, while “A Song For You” takes a more personal approach.
But it wasn’t to last. “Things happened so fast in those days,” mused Greg. Details are sketchy to the band’s demise — and likely best forgotten. McKagan and Gilmore turned to Ten Minute Warning, the missing link between punk rock and proto-grunge (whatever that is), before leaving to L.A. and the fables/foibles of history. Gilmore returned quickly to Seattle and helped form Mother Love Bone. Duff has gone on to an amazing career, a lifer with staying power. 1982 stands proudly and tall among the class of early-80s Seattle punk.
Reflecting back, Duff wonders: “Would this even ever get out of our basement? We had something magical then, and it was ours, so who gives a fuck!” After 39 years, The Living is out of the basement.
TAGS : Artists