From Mohawks To Mullets

Images from 25 years of Phoenix music

So, by replacing drinking buddies with golf buddies, the Coop has cleverly sidestepped the grave -- the one thing he romanticized more than anything, including Budweiser. The cliché says that only death can elevate one to true "legend" status. So that guy you see with the flaccid slouch, pitch-black hair and black leather jacket lurking at local ball games and sports bars may not be a legend now, but he will be someday. You'll see. -- Brian Smith

Bad, Crazy Sun

Desert rock? What the fuck does the desert sound like anyway?

If Valley residents harbor some feelings of resentment toward our Tucson neighbors, it's more a natural geographical rivalry than one borne of any real animosity. For it wasn't that long ago that a group of visiting Old Pueblo bands helped fashion Phoenix's signature "desert rock" sound -- loud, wailing and tuneful guitars burnished with folk strums and countryish twang, and maybe a hint of a striking serpent's menacing rattle, too.

First to slither into the glare of the bad, crazy sun were the Giant Sandworms, who lasted long enough to issue a pair of now-rare vinyl artifacts and to bequeath a handful of personalities whose artistic endeavors would permanently score the Old Pueblo's musical landscape. Chief among them, of course, was Howe Gelb. Following the departure of Sandworms guitarist Rainer Ptácek (who'd go on to have a low-key but internationally acclaimed solo career up until his death from cancer in 1997), Gelb shortened the group name and extended his musical vision, leading Giant Sand through some 15 albums (24, counting side projects and anthologies) and at least as many stylistic detours including, just to name a few: garage-punk, country-folk, abstract rock and freeform psych, even forays into traditional pop tunesmithery and R&B. From 1985's debut Valley of Rain (primo titular desert imagery there) to the just-released Chore of Enchantment, Giant Sand has consistently delivered the goods.

Interestingly, Giant Sand's ventures into the Valley were infrequent. Another group of Gelb associates, however, did make numerous treks back and forth along I-10. Naked Prey, formed in '83 by Van Christian (a veteran of one of the numerous early Giant Sand rosters) and David Seger (who, along with current Phoenix singer-songwriter Billy Sedlmayer, had rounded out the Giant Sandworms roster), quickly established itself as Tucson's preeminent outlaw indie rockers. Its dark, rumbling brand of blues-tinged, edgy cowpunk was firmly established on a national level in 1986 when Under the Blue Marlin was released. Back home, too, including Phoenix, where the band regularly gigged at Impulse and the Purple Turtle, even recording its '88 album Kill the Messenger at Chaton Studio in Paradise Valley. The group finally split in '95 after issuing its And Then I Shot Everybody CD for Brad Singer's Epiphany label, but it left behind a handful of great records and memories.

Undoubtedly the one Tucson combo to generate the largest share of fond memories among Phoenix clubgoers was the Sidewinders. Sporting the can't-miss combined songwriting talents of guitarist Rich Hopkins and vocalist Dave Slutes, the group's Cuacha! debut appeared in '88 and immediately drew the attention of critics nationwide. Two albums for Mammoth/RCA and one for Atlas/PolyGram followed, plus a number of well-received national tours both as headliners and opening for established acts such as Soul Asylum and Tragically Hip. But the group never lost sight of its roots, whether kicking up dust onstage at Tucson's Club Congress or storming on a regular basis venerable Valley venues such as Long Wong's and Chuy's.

The singular 'winders sound of epic, windswept ballads and stormily anthemic rockers plugged perfectly into the Neil Young/Tom Petty tradition while forging a memorable identity for its creators. Old-school classic rockers could dig the band, and it almost goes without saying that the little girls understood, too, judging by the number of comely lasses who were regular front-of-crowd fixtures at the band's concerts. By '93 the group had dissolved in the aftermath of a legally forced name change (to the Sand Rubies) and assorted professional and personal conflicts; a subsequent two-year reunion yielded a clutch of fine recordings while mending fences among the members. All are still active in Tucson today, Hopkins' current outfit, the Luminarios, in particular beginning to make a national and international name for itself. -- Fred Mills

Lost Horizons

His ability to emotionally destroy or elate you was unbelievably keen. He could take a string of words and just make you feel it. It's the same thing that he applied to his guitar playing. It wasn't about virtuosity, but when he played -- man, it hit you like a freight train. It was just so, so . . . so fucking cool. The world is just not as cool without him around.

-- Brian Blush, guitarist, Refreshments

Kris Kristofferson wasn't writing about Doug Hopkins when he penned the lines "he's a prophet and a pusher, partly truth and partly fiction, he's a walking contradiction." Though he pushed little in his 33 years (save for a collection of songs he offered his publisher shortly before his death), Hopkins embodied the paradoxes of Kristofferson's protagonist.

He was at turns an unyielding cynic with little faith in the human condition, yet his songs are imbued with idyllic sense of romanticism; a literate and charming companion who could be equally crude and unfeeling; a volatile personality capable of immense rage and hatred but generous and loyal to a fault; a performer who craved rock-star adulation but sabotaged his own success. But mostly he was the type of man who could revel in the debauchery of Up and Down With the Rolling Stones, yet quote Rimbaud in his songs.

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