Thursday, March 08, 2012

RIP John Hornick Jr.

Back around 1981 I had never met John Hornick, but soon our paths would cross and become intertwined-- joined at the hip by a passion for wild music with pounding drums and frantic distorted guitars. At the time, the underground music scene in DC/Baltimore/Central PA was flourishing with strong punk bands like the Bad Brains and the Slickee Boys, a band who owed more to the Seeds than the Sex Pistols. The Slickees intense shows were a whir of color and their local following was so big they would knock the national stars, like Jermaine Jackson and Duran Duran, off the cover of the local entertainment rags. Its no coincidence that I was already friends with the Slickees one guitarist, Kim Kane, through our mutual interest in collecting psychedelic garage records, and I was a huge fan of the band as well. It turns out John Hornick was a Slickees fan too, and at an Angry Samoans show, he met Kim and gave him a tape of his band, the Embryonic Magnetos. Soon that tape made its way to yours truly who was compiling a modern psych comp which would become The Train to Disaster. The Magnetos songs were loud crude and great and I wanted them on the LP.

It turns out John was kicked out of the band and they were rechristened the Left. John's musical talents, but not his spirit, were sorta non-existent but that never stopped him from assembling a vast pile of unusual guitars, pedals, and distortion boxes and trying to get onstage with any band that would let him. John's love of garage music and quest for knowledge fueled his passion which soon merged with his ability to draw and the Innervoid fanzine was born. Together with Jim Swope of the Left and Fat Pat Newman, John put out six issues filled with anything thing but the usual. Insane collages, silly comics, creepy art and wild music of all types were to be expected. John became the self-proclaimed "voice of the young, brave, restless, useless, intolerant and unimpressed final generation." Soon the Left went on to release two very successful LPs with both John and Pat doing covers for their 1st EP It's The World!. The dueling covers depicted unique comic visions of Armageddon with Pat's featuring the world covered with a pile of shit, sinking into a sea of beer cans with everyone fighting each other; Hornick's cover was an also amazing piece of comic art as two gap mouthed pointy toothed, bloodshot bug eyed, stalk-headed aliens looking through their spaceship windshield at the Earth on fire. That psychotronic style humor infused both John's writing and his art. John's life was teenage rebellion, rock and roll music, and the pursuit of fine, and maybe just a bit trashy, art. He never got to live out his dream of living in a old school bus, or entering the national wheelchair race on a Bona Fide sponsored chair. John Hornick can now live out his dreams, planted forever in the marble orchard.

It's now been a couple months since John left this planet in early January. Please accept my apologies for taking so long to post, as this writing hasn't been easy. John was a great friend and we all miss him so much. His last few years weren't too easy as many times he went from one VA hospital to another and suffered from inadequate care. The highlights were when we could visit him and Pat would bring him a stuffed sub from the local American Legion. John was a big guy with a big appetite, and I'm sad to say, if he had had a few more good meals, he might still be around today. He spent his last years in relative isolation, living in the middle of nowhere--coal mining country, Elbert, WV--cut off from his friends and most of civilization. His rambling phone calls were always welcome, as he would gush about his You Tube finds like the Saicos, The Cramps at Napa Mental Hospital, the Bunnys or Porter Wagoner's "Rubber Room." John could find the most amazing My Space pages, and he loved the Garage Hangover site as well. I tried to get him to draw another cover for my still unreleased Central PA 70s psych comp, Unlock Your Mind, but sadly he drew very little in his last years, and the Innervoid #7 never came close to seeing the light of day.

I write this post to highlight his work which remains under-appreciated but stellar nonetheless. His two LP covers he did for Bona Fide, the Left's It's the World and Attack Of The Jersey Teens, are pure brilliance, and his fanzine was a true gem of trashy teenage culture. Hornick's work and his life were a testament to an insane form of teenage rebellion. His love for the Slickee Boys, the Cramps, Roky Erickson and the Sonics sent John on a lifelong adventure and he took us all along for quite a ride.

Even though John left the Left as they morphed into a deadly rock and roll band, he loomed quite large and together they shared a unique space in the broader scheme of things. John was only too glad to tell their story in the liner notes to our Jesus Loves the Left CD. Outcasts in their little town in western MD, they carved themselves a spot in infamy with their take on life. Now revered by those in the know worldwide, and amazingly still kicking around sounding better than ever for anyone who gives a shit (me, for one!), the Left(and I) lost a big hunk of their past and a great friend when John Hornick died. In John's memory, here is his shining moment, a Left rehearsal with John filling in for singer Brian Sefsic. John had the foresight to bring along his boombox to immortalize the one time they let him sing, and he screams out a monster version of the Dirty Wurds garage classic "Why". At the end Jim Swope says "you don't have to scream, John!" Coming from a guy whose amp was usually on 11, a humorous aside. You might wanna know, this hot take followed 3 ill-fated, but smokin' attempts at the Sonics' "Shot Down." Now Big John got shot down for the last time, but somewhere he's still making noise and his amp is set on 11 too.

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