10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona: #7 - Victory Acres/Joke Flower Split LP
This one is very personal.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit, I am a huge fan of Dan Clark. I loved watching Victory Acres play as a young'un and I still love listening to them now. As for Joke Flower, they were more of a guilty pleasure, as most of my friends would shake their head and just sort of laugh when they came up in conversation, but there was something about them I never let go of, even after all of these years.
The story of the Victory Acres/Joke Flower split record, which was one of the last releases by Placebo Records, is really the story of a man and his wife and some of their cool and talented friends. Each side of the record has a distinct flavor and while the measure of influence is always subjective, this record and the primary players who made it, influenced countless people in and out of Arizona.
Dan and Mary Clark are the only two folks who were part of every incarnation of these two bands. While they now live in Bisbee, they were major players in how the Phoenix punk scene not only formed, but also in how it sounds. Clark, whose brother Doug (Mighty Sphincter, The Brainz) also played on the Victory Acres portion of this record, was part of the early Phoenix punk scene from the get go. He's a walking encyclopedia of Phoenix punk facts.
Prior to forming the Victory Acres, which technically could also be considered a Los Angeles band (don't start penning hate mail just yet though), Dan Clark spent time in the Exterminators, the Liars, and, more notably, as bass player for the Feederz (under the moniker, Clear Bob).
"Victory Acres got started because of some turmoil with the Feederz. We [The Feederz] had some gigs in California, I had finals, and Frank [Discussion, infamous guitar player/singer/provocateur] ended up pulling off the gigs, but I screwed up my finals so I told Mary, 'We're out of here' and we loaded up our big green station wagon and we headed out to Pasadena and stayed with David Wiley [the Consumers] for a while," says Clark.
This was 1978, and the Clarks were part of what must have seemed like a mass exodus of early Phoenix punks to the Los Angeles area.
Eventually, Dan and Mary, who handled the lead vocal duties for both Victory Acres and Joke Flower, found their way to Hollywood. Dan continues, "When we moved to Hollywood, Mary and I were both working on Hollywood Boulevard. Mary was selling tickets for the movie theater across from Grauman's Chinese theater [which by then was Mann's] and I was off the street a bit. Don't go there now, it's boring now, but we went there and things were starting to really decay." Considering the lyrics of both Victory Acres and Joke Flower, a decaying society was probably a huge draw for first wave punks like the Clarks.
The couple befriended a guy who was putting together a show which was to feature UK bands Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, and the Young Marble Giants. Due to Joy Division singer Ian Curtis' suicide, Joy Division didn't make the trip, but Cabaret Voltaire, Young Marble Giants, and Monitor (classic LA art-rock band) did, and the Clarks were asked to put together a band to play as well. They came up with the name Victory Acres and recruited Paul Cutler (The Consumers, 45 Grave, Dream Syndicate) and Michael Ochoa (Nervous Gender) to round out the lineup.
"I played bass and guitar, but it really wasn't like playing chords. We pretty much did it because the guy said we could do it," Clark says.
Victory Acres would play again before they moved back to Phoenix, but it wasn't until they returned to the desert that the band really began to take shape.
The Victory Acres lineup on this particular record was particularly stellar. In addition to the Clarks (Dan on bass, Mary on vocals, and Doug on guitar), two Meat Puppets' Derek Bostrom and Cris Kirkwood were drums and organ, respectively. Kirkwood was relatively new to the organ, but according to Bostrom, his stage presence really "livened things up."
"Those guys are friends of mine, Danny and Mary. At a point, Danny and Mary were back here in town and had started Victory Acres up again with Doug [Clark]," Kirkwood says. "They asked Derek and I to play and I thought, 'why not?' I was on keyboards, which was new for me, but it was all still music. That version of the band was a tight little pop thing."
Bostrom had known Dan since they had met when Clark played in the Exterminators. "We stayed at their (Dan and Mary's) house when we (Meat Puppets) would go to Los Angeles, and we kept in touch. When they moved back and wanted to get Victory Acres going again, I joined in," shared Bostrom.
"We actually practiced and worked it into a good band," added Kirkwood.
Due to the Meat Puppets' tour schedule in the early '80s, Bostrom and Kirkwood's tenure in Victory Acres was a short one, but luckily, the band decided to go into Cereus Studios in Tempe and for, according to Dan Clark, $100 they recorded and mixed nine songs over a couple of days.
While Kirkwood doesn't remember any of the details of the recording, he is proud of the record.
"It was kind of like the Cars, or something. You know, these nice little pop arrangements. It was well arranged," says Kirkwood, without a hint of sarcasm.
There is a deceptively catchy nature to the Victory Acres stuff, even if it only reminds Kirkwood of a band like the Cars. Dan Clark adds, "We were just doing songs I recorded in my living room, but when Derek and Cris came along, it was just easy. Those guys are so good."
The Victory Acres side kicks off with a haunting little Doug Clark instrumental called "Two Thousand Tegus" which features the two Clarks and the two Meat Puppets prominently on a typical serpentine desert punk noise rag. Kirkwood weaves a neat little keyboard line into Dan and Doug's intricate bass and lead guitar. It segues into "A Cup of Coffee Please," which brings Mary into the mix, sing/chanting lyrics based on the common sayings of a customer at Pete's Fish and Chips, where Dan worked.
"[This guy] would come in and order a cup of coffee and occasionally spout some fairly accurate observations. 'Some day safety will become a hazard' ... 'Unwrap that gift and burn it!' He also wrote equations on napkins. ... I couldn't figure them out but I'm sure they were important," Dan Clark says.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.