As time went on, the ante was gradually upped. I adopted myriad bands with deliberately tasteless monikers as favorites, although never solely because of that reason. I can spout off hundreds of bands with socially unacceptable names who completely suck and don't deserve the recognition. But from The Stranglers and Dead Kennedys to MDC (Millions of Dead Cops, Multi-Death Corporation, etc.) and the Circle Jerks (if I'm being candid, I didn't even know what their name actually meant for a couple of years), my roster of favorites probably had something to insult or disturb everyone.
That never bothered me, really. I'd suggest that the finest art is the kind that pushes buttons and leaves an indelible impression. I also figure that it's all silly and juvenile and you should really keep a sense of humor about such things. I'm not suggesting that these artists shouldn't be taken seriously, but aren't there much bigger fish to be fried than worrying about the names and/or song-titles of rock n' roll records?
There is one band, however, that I am a deeply avowed fan of that's posed a steadily growing amount of conflict for me. I penned the post below in one sitting, concentrating more on the minutia of the circumstances than on the impossibly controversial nature of the band's name, as it's a part of their story that I'd glossed over for years, and never took as seriously as others might have. The name of this band is Cop Shoot Cop.
It would be convenient and predictable to suggest that since becoming a parent a few years back, I see the world with a newer, more sensitive and compassionate perspective, but I don't think that's it. Even at the height of my irresponsible youth, I still knew full well that the name Cop Shoot Cop (regardless of how you interpret the moniker .... see below for those arguably trivial nuances) crossed several heretofore unchallenged lines. On a purely surface level, the name Cop Shoot Cop vaulted majestically over the battlements of political correctness and into a whole new frontier of scary nihilism. That was probably by design ... to see how far too far could go.
I first met the guys in Cop Shoot Cop in about 1991 or so. I was writing a cover story about them for a long-since-vanished freebie weekly called New York Perspectives. I'm sure I had loads of preconceptions about what they were going to be like based on their records and their live show, but I don't think I really knew what to expect. But when they walked into CBGB's Pizza & Record Canteen on the Bowery (anyone remember that?), they turned out to be insightful, funny and thoughtful guys (and not at all scowling, pistol-concealing contrarians). This encounter pretty much completely desensitized me to that problematic name. They became just another band with a nasty name -- not unlike Suicide or Slayer or The Crucifucks or Jane's Addiction -- whose music I loved. Decades later, I'm even still friends with a couple of the Cop Shoot Cop guys.
Time went on. The band broke up without every really "making it big" (surprise, surprise) and the members went onto different things. As I point out in the post below, I remained -- and continue to remain -- a loyal fan of the now-defunct ensemble. But in more recent years, I've found the very name Cop Shoot Cop much harder to rationally defend as a sentient adult, and it's probably not a big mystery as to why that is.
In the last few years alone, there have been simply too many episodes of unspeakable gun violence that the American public has turned a blind eye to for far, far too long. Guns are simply way too woven into the fabric of American culture, and in the wake of Aurora and Sandy Hook (although there are scores and scores of other tragedies that one could easily cite), it seems the conversation about gun control and practical necessity is finally getting close to where it needs to be.
Back in August of last year, in the wake of a senselessly brutal shooting right on Fifth Avenue (right on my route to work, actually), I penned a post about feeling like a fucking hypocrite for being so complicit in the celebration of art and popular culture that glorifies the gun. I still don't see an iron-clad cause-and-effect relationship between art and violence (if that were the case, wouldn't we have wiped ourselves out as a species by now?), but I think I'm now more wary than ever before of the sides of the argument.
In absolutely no uncertain terms, I abhor guns and gun culture. I've never owned one, and I probably never will. And I don't think anyone outside the theater of war needs to own an assault weapon. Full stop. The fact that the Senate is failing to take any action on a meaningful assault weapons ban is something I find unbelievably repugnant and shameful.
So, with all that in mind, you can probably ascertain why I had second thoughts about the post below. At the risk of belaboring the point, I am a fan of Cop Shot Cop the band, not Cop Shoot Cop the concept. I've always interpreted the band's name as a purely artistic statement (however macabre) and not as a legitimate endorsement of conduct. With that, read on....
The actual post:
When I latch onto a band I’ve deemed ‘a favorite,’ it’s usually with a pretty tenacious grip. I tend to remain obstreperously loyal, even in the face of break-ups, side-projects, missteps, concept albums, attrition, changing trends, etc. Witness my dogged reluctance to fully condemn KISS even after innumerable crimes against their legacy, their dignity and all around good taste. Being that they were once my all-time faves, I can't fully forsake them. Once I’m in, I’m usually in for the long haul.
One such band I’ve staunchly supported, defended and noisily lauded the merits of over the years is New York City’s own Cop Shoot Cop. Yes, I'm fully aware of the utter tastelessness of their name (although it's been said that the very name 'Cop Shoot Cop' is less about gun violence and anti-authoritarianism and more about the heroin junkie's ritual -- not that that's necessarily much better). If you’re not familiar with’em, it’s probably too late now. They called it quits in about 1996, and their catalog is now pretty much solidly out of print (for those of you, like myself, who still opt for the physical manifestation of music). There’s always the Internet, though.
In any case, while most of the rest of the world has moved on, I’m still a die-hard C$C fan. I’m actually friends with a couple of former members of the band, and even they basically wish I’d get the hell over it. Sorry, boys, but that just ain’t going to happen. I still regularly play Cop Shoot Cop’s albums. I still routinely trawl around eBay looking for lost C$C ephemera (there’s a particular gig poster from about 1990 that I’d gladly donate an organ to possess, but I’ve never seen it outside of a public school wall on East 4th street eons ago). I’m pretty much always on the lookout for anything related, however tenuously, to this unjustly under-praised band.
But I’ve waxed rhapsodic about my allegiance to Cop Shoot Cop a few times here (notably here and here), so I won’t bother rehashing all that purple prose. Suffice to say that if you don’t care for Cop Shoot Cop, you can count on a bug-eyed argument from me. As far as I'm concerned, they were one of the best bands of the 90s. Their influences may have been easy to spout off, but I'd assert that Cop Shoot Cop were a helluva lot more original and interesting than, oh, say, Nirvana (a band who, ironically and tragically, did play around with guns and heroin). But, I digress.
There are still pockets of C$C fans out there. The band’s Facebook page boasts 1,887 friends, and in a recent edition of The Quietus’ Baker’s Dozen (a great regular feature wherein various artists cite thirteen of their favorite records) versatile string-bender Devin Townshend cited Cop Shoot Cop’s White Noise as one of his picks. His band Strapping Young Lad covered Cop Shoot Cop's "Room 429" on their 1997 album, City.
To the discerning Cop Shoot Cop zealot, there are a few choice, rare items worth tracking down. For example, there is the set of baseball cards they put out as a promotional item with the release of Release (complete with endearingly ridiculous, band-penned bio info on the back of each). There’s the CD single of “Room 429,” which features a visceral live bash through early favorite “Shine On, Elizabeth” as an extra cut. There’s the “electronic press kit” VHS tape featuring quasi-candid interviews and performance clips. There’s the Red Expendables debut, which is essentially the re-worked mixes of what would have been Cop Shoot Cop’s final album with vocalist/high-end bassist Tod [A]’s (credited as [T] Ashley) parts pointedly minimized. These and other items are getting rarer by the day, but they’re still out there.
Probably the most notorious bit of arcane Cop Shoot Cop material, however is the Piece, Man seven inch single. Released circa 1989 on Vertical records, this particular slab of wax features caustic favorites like “Eggs For Rib” (which purportedly borrowed its bass line from Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema”) and the perennial, church-worrying favorite, “Robert Tilton Handjob.” With a song title like that coupled with the band’s name (not exactly a moniker that endeared the band to the local constabulary), you might have thought that was enough. Well, to up the ante, all 1,000 pressings of the Piece, Man single came splattered in actual pig’s blood. Bon appetit.
In a previous incarnation of the official Cop Shoot Cop site (manned by drummer Phil Puleo, now a member of SWANS), there used to be a long, candid explanation of how the controversial sleeve came to be. That explanation's no longer up, sadly.
The music on the Piece, Man single was later appended to the cassette version of the re-release of the band’s debut 12”, Headkick Facsimile, which you used to be able to get from the band’s website, although those are now long gone (I still have a couple of copies of the cassette … one still wrapped, no less, `cos yes,… I’m that type of guy). But when it comes to “collector scum” tactics, the tactile artifact that is the limited edition Piece, Man single is the big differentiator.
Blah blah blah, so now that's it's been pretty much established that no one really cares about Cop Shoot Cop anymore (band members included) as much as I thought I did, why am I bringing all this crap up now? Well, I happen to own three copies of the notorious Piece, Man 7", which I used to think made me Johnny Badass in terms of being a devoted fanboy. Imagine how my curiosity was piqued, then, upon stumbling across this article on the aptly-named site Public Collectors.Org. A dude name Marc Fisher is collecting as many copies of the Piece, Man single as he can for the purposes of displaying them together (not unlike this artist who's made an installation out of his sprawling collection of copies of the Beatles' White Album).
Personally speaking, I think I came into possessing my first copy of the Piece, Man single courtesy of my friend Rob B., who gave it to me for a birthday present many years ago. I bought a second copy right off the wall of (soon to vanish) Bleecker Bob's. My third copy came directly from former Cop Shoot Cop "high-end" bassist and vocalist Tod [A], when he graciously bestowed upon me some band-related odds and ends he was parting with several years back. With all due respect to Marc Fisher's project, I'm not parting with any of them. That said, if you'd care to contribute to Marc's vision, he writes:
If you have a copy that is not represented here, please email a photograph of it to me and I'll add it to this collection: marc [at] publiccollectors.org.
Today, Cop Shoot Cop is long gone, and the chance of a reuion is strenuously unlikely. Tod [A] only recently released his seventh album (!!) with Firewater, Dave Ouimet now works in childrens' book publishing, Phil Puleo drums heroically for SWANS, Jim Coleman's still making his own music and soundtracks, Steve McMillen is a laywer in Texas (how's that for a career change?) and at last glance, Jack Natz was playing bass for Lubricated Goat and the Unsane.
Here they were circa 1995, firing on all cylinders: