Yeah, what is it? I didn’t get it; I’m not a girl. Guys get confused by everything feminine: Periods, Menopause, Masturbation… Do I suck your tits or do you not like this? Pull your hair… yes, no? Anal? Yeah ok stop. This is not about my confusion regarding the female species. Yeah, “Men are from Mars”, right? “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider…” This is about a short-lived band that titled itself after a horrible medical condition which only effects the fem. We formed at the same time this affliction was hitting the standard issue news broadcasts. Being so punk rock, we needed an offensive band name and it seemed at in that time we would be as offensive as we could be: Toxic Shock.
We began to get press coverage and I suddenly received a phone call from a former roommate who was a hardcore lesbo third wave feminist. Ramona and I by the way hated each other: I slept with her girlfriend. I pick up the phone, she says, “Is this your band?” I’m like, “Ah shit…” She proceeded to carry on about how much she loved the band’s name and how we (the band) can bring this horrible affliction to the forefront. OK, I took a breath…
I don’t know how we met; it could have been through an ad in some newspaper, mutual friends, who know? The first thing I do remember is standing in the garage of Dave Dunn’s rented house. This was our first get together which included Marc Segal with a cheap two octave Casio keyboard, Dave with his Fender Stratocaster playing through a tiny Pig Nose amplifier and me with my fiddle. No one had a real amp, microphone or any audio equipment to note. We connected right away and after going over a few of their songs, they said, “I was in“. Shortly after, Steve Greer joined as bassist. Steve had a vintage bass and a proper amp; an early Rolling Stones’ reference to bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts who were the only band members who had any real equipment in the Stones’ early days. The Fender mattered but the Pig Nose didn’t. It was simply an expensive toy masquerading as something it wasn’t.
We needed a drummer. Dave knew this guy Phil who was a surfer frat boy. So now we had a band but still no equipment sans Steve’s amp and Phil’s drum kit. I ended up buying a shitty PEAVY amplifier from some mentally unstable fella for $200. This guy eventually lost his mind and disappeared. Even though I played through it for many years after, the amp was truly a piece of shit. It always crapped one on me, died in one way or another at every crucial moment, generally at the beginning of a gig. I HATE everything PEAVEY. Years later while playing guitar in the hardcore band Ted Bundy Revival (yeah come on, we can’t help it if we are from Florida…) I put my boot through the Peavey’s grill during a show. The kids loved it. Steve didn’t really know how to play the bass and was somewhat proud of this. Here he shifted from being Bill Wyman to Sid Vicious however Steve was an intellectual and wasn’t an ass who murdered his girlfriend. At some point, Steve left the band and was replaced with some douche that loved The Police and only played Peavey equipment. Two strikes and you are out…
After playing with Dave’s Ouija Board while talking to people who didn’t exist and drinking herbal tea, Toxic Shock would rehearse a few times a week. We actually became fairly tight and began playing gigs in somewhat unusual venues. Emmanuel’s was a Black owned/ran Cajun eatery that supported local punk rockers. Their claim to fame was the oyster fritters. Smitty’s Club was a Black owned/ran road house in the middle of the no-where forest. The club was established by Smitty Senior, now ran by Smitty Junior who completely supported our punk rock culture as long as he (Smitty) got a percentage of the door and we didn’t stop purchasing his adult beverages.
Steve and Phil were dudes, being the singer and absurdly charming Marc burned through a lot of girls, but Dave was the true Romeo of the band. He always had a girlfriend that he was constantly in some form of crisis with. I remember one day specifically; we had gone out to one of the isolated lakes in the Tallahassee region to go skinny dipping. Dave and his girl both brought rafts to float on, they spent the entire day floating on opposite sides of the body of water screaming at each other. So much fun… Where Phil was constantly and absurdly always upbeat, Dave seemed to be in a consistent manic melt down with Marc, Steve, Phil, and I patching him up. I knew there was something wrong if Dave wasn’t threatening to quit the band and sell his guitar.
As mentioned, we played a lot of shows often in unusual locations but never recorded. A number of these shows were double headlined with Toxic Shock and Hated Youth. Ironically, the members of the two bands hated each other and I’m sure that no one ever had a clue as to why. (Yeah Punk Rock… Jesus Christ…) Eventually we rented a rehearsal space and began to function more professionally however before Phil and I could comprehend what was going on, both Dave and Marc quit college and moved back to Miami.
A few years later I get a phone call from Marc and Dave: They had put together another band, wanted my permission to use the name (Toxic Shock) and redo our original songs. I was so flattered; these were Marc’s lyrics and Dave’s arrangements. They didn’t need my permission but kindly asked regardless. This second version of the band toured a bit, did some recording which I have yet to hear, and came through Tallahassee to play a few shows (in the nature of our earliest gigs), at a hippy health food restaurant. I was excited at the Toxic Shock events, seeing my friends and a former band that I helped develop. I walked away from the concerts a tad disappointed because the band had become much too polished, too slick. But when you work long enough, dedicatedly hard enough, this happens, and this is exactly what Dave and Marc did. Years later, when discussing my performing history with someone I might get a “You played in Toxic Shock?!?”
I’ve played in a lot of combos since Toxic Shock; a great deal of that music I literally do not remember. I do remember the bands, the experiences, the people, locations, gigs, whatever but not the music most likely because I simply do not want to. Toxic Shock’s music has always stuck with me, this memory I will never forget.
Prolific words from a genius lyricist, Marc Segal:
Jody took my Quaaludes Mr. French!
Buffy why’d ya do it?
Did Mrs. Beasley put you to it?
Were you board with fame and fortune?
Or in need of an abortion…
You left us with no ideals,
You left us with only Brook Shields,
At least you took a good way to go-o-o
Just like a little Marlin Monroe-o-o…
Jody took my Quaaludes Mr. French!
This is dedicated to the memory of Dave Dunn, R.I.P. you big baby.
Shocked – I say…
I didn’t know any of the members of Toxic Shock, and I hated the name, but man, what a band, and what an experience to see them live…
I clearly remember the lyrics to some of their songs (There’ll be no more fucking in Florida, no more fucking in this state – POLICE STATE!), while others I’d actually COVERED in my band Silly Wabbit without realizing that Dave Dunn had written them for Toxic Shock. Witty, political, satirical, and biting are all apt descriptions. Toxic Shock was an assault on authority and convention and challenged even punk rock’s own status quo. (I mean, VIOLIN in a punk band – UNHEARD OF!)
My most vivid memory of them was seeing them at Sweetbay Studio B where, at the end of the night, Dave dropped his Fender Stratocaster. He didn’t smash it, he simply unhooked the strap and let it fall on its face. It was the single MOST PUNK ROCK GESTURE I had ever witnessed! Years later, I wrote about that event on MySpace.
A few years after I’d first seen Toxic Shock, I met and became friends with George (he was in another of my all-time-favorite Tallahassee bands – Benign Neglect – who frequently performed with Faith In Medical Technology, the band I was in at the time). I knew Peg too - “Mr. Peg” who was the singer for Silly Wabbit and integral lynchpin for Planet Ten had a connection to Dave and Toxic Shock. But I’d never met Dave, as I believe he left Tallahassee before I was ever in a band or at least part of “the scene”. Someone pointed Dave to my post about seeing him drop his guitar, and he contacted me. We met for lunch, and eventually got together to jam a couple times. He even invited me to bring my daughter to his daughter’s birthday party one year. I genuinely loved the guy – how could you NOT? And I deeply regret not taking the time to play with him more often, the few occasions where we got together were an absolute blast.
Anyway, Toxic Shock (and Dave) will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart and memory, as being THE REAL DEAL. If you ever saw them, you KNOW what I mean, and if you didn’t, you definitely missed something SPECIAL.
Toxic Shock recordings: