Most Influential Arizona Punk Records -- #4, JFA, Valley of the Yakes
Jodie Foster's Army (JFA) recorded Valley of the Yakes and broke the mold for anyone else coming after them.
Valley of the Yakes easily could be the most influential record on this list except for one thing: Nobody else could have recorded it.
There was no other band on the planet at the time who could have matched JFA's intensity, its blend of influences, and the sheer skate-punk genius the group created with Sandy Lamont at Phoenix's Desert Sounds, on Placebo Records' dime. Because of this, there have been few bands who have even tried to emulate JFA's unique style and sound, unlike many of its equally famous punk rock peers around the world.
Full disclosure: I play in a band with one of the founding members of JFA, Michael Cornelius, who played bass on Valley of the Yakes. Cornelius truly is one of my heroes when it comes to not only music, but life in general, but this has nothing to do with my selection. Even if he was an untalented prick (which he is definitely not) who just happened to get lucky and write a bunch of killer songs with his skate buddies, I still would love this record. When I purchased Valley of the Yakes, used at Zia for $2.99, I had never met Cornelius or even seen JFA perform, but I still loved every single minute of it.
This record is so good that after its purchase, I don't think I went a day without listening to it for at least a year. It comes in at right about 10 minutes for each side, so it's not as though it takes too long to get through the whole thing, but the length of the album has nothing to do with why I listened so much. For a 14- or 15-year-old with a skateboard, there isn't a single slab of punk rock better to listen to, especially if you are filled with Phoenix pride. Thirty-two years after it was released, Valley of the Yakes hasn't aged a bit, still sounding just as good as it did back then.
The original lineup of the band came together just two short years before the record was recorded. Bassist Cornelius had played guitar in Jr. Chemists and guitar player Don Redondo (Pendleton) was in the Deez, so they knew each other through playing shows around town, as well as through skateboarding.
Redondo wanted to put together an all skater band and recruited Cornelius. According to Redondo, "My Hate House [notorious Phoenix punk rock party house and sometime venue] band, the Deez, imploded, plus they thought I played too fast, calling me 'surf punk' ... I had been bugging Cornelius for months to start something [since] he ruled on bass and I was trying to build a Who-type band. He won't remember, but he finally agreed after seeing DOA's hardcore '81 tour at the Solid Gold."
Redondo found Mike "Bam Bam" Sversvold, a 14-year-old wunderkind drummer, so all the band needed to do was find a singer. Brian Brannon, also just 14 at the time, was their man. Brannon had met Cornelius while skating at a Scottsdale ramp and then crossed paths again about a month later at a Deez show at Hate House.
"Michael came up to me and remembered me from the ramp and said, 'Hey, we're putting a band together of all skaters and we need a lead singer. Can you scream?' So I motioned him to come closer and screamed my friggin' head off into is ear. Obviously, I cut through all the loud music going on at the time because next thing I knew, I was in! Plus, it helped that I had a garage we could practice in," Brannon says.
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