On the Road With the U-Men (The final dog leg)

Posted: July 20, 2011 in U-Men

From friendships formed at Woodshock, the U-Men were invited to play a show with Agent Orange, the California surf-punk band, in Norman, Oklahoma.  With no idea where to go, the U-Men met some local college radio people at an apartment and proceeded to follow them to the concert site.  The band promptly started up the school bus, heading down the road to parts unknown.  “And all of the sudden the road turns to gravel,” says bassist Jim Tillman, “then it turns to dirt.  Then we’re driving through this corn field, and the corn is like brushing against both sides of the bus—covering the windows.  And I thought, ‘Shit, we’re gonna get killed.’”

After driving through corn for a while, the bus arrived in front of a graffiti-spray painted building, surrounded by about a hundred cars.  The U-Men then proceeded to share a bill with Agent Orange.

The U-Men’s final tour led them all the way to NYC in 1985.  The return trip to Seattle was not without its highlights (or lowlights).  After an Ohio performance, the band partied at a fan’s apartment.  The revelers partook in beer and acid, and proceeded to party throughout the night.  Tillman, suffering from a 104-degree fever, crashed in a bedroom.  “And I wake up [at] about two in the morning,” Tillman recalls, “hearing somebody chanting, ‘Redrum! Redrum!’ [murder spelled backwards…comes from The Shining, a 1980 horror flick] I opened my eyes and [kneeling] over me is [roadie] David Duet…chanting ‘Redrum’ in my face, and he was holding a loaded handgun.”

Fortunately, Tillman obtained the weapon from the acid-rattled Duet and avoided disaster.  Tillman then rubbed his eyes, still somewhat in shock from the handgun incident, and wandered toward the main gathering.  There, the weary, flu-ravaged Tillman witnessed the partygoers reveling on the floor completely naked, except for a coating of shaving cream.

In Indiana, the U-Men found themselves at a psychedelic frat party after a show, joining their hosts in some acid-taking.  Drummer Charlie Ryan, clad in a top hat and lederhosen, proceeded to LSD himself into a dramatically altered state.  He then wandered outside into the pouring rain.  Then, for no apparent reason, he took off his shoe and fired it at the back of the bus—so hard that it cracked the window.  Satisfied with his work, Ryan stumbled down the road and fell into a ditch.  The drummer began brushing himself off, and noticed a powerfully repulsive odor eminating from the ditch.  Turns out he fell into a pile of manure.  “So me and [singer] John [Bigley] had to haul him in to this house,” says U-Men guitarist Tom Price, “to the bathroom and hose him down while he was on LSD.”

Despite all the mishaps including police run-ins, canceled shows, and lack of money, the U-Men never regretted their road experiences.  Those experiences, as haphazard as they might have been, effectively blazed a trail (or a cornfield) for Seattle’s up-and-coming musicians.


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