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Gardrails: The Worst Night(s) of Your Life 1983-1984

Gardrails picture

Easily my favorite house party band of all time; if you can imagine the early Germs mixed with King Uszniewicz and his Uszniewicztones you’ll have an approximation of Lawrence, Kansas’ amazing Gardrails. To set the stage here, let me just quote from their “official” bio:

What began in the winter of 1982-83 as a demented nightmare quickly festered into a cancerous reality by the next spring — feeding almost entirely on other group’s songs, distorting them well past the line of sanity and leaving the bloated and unwieldy remains to be devoured and kicked to the ground by the ever increasing gang of criminals and thugs who refer to themselves as Gardrail fans.

Gardrails review

Members Tomy Splash/ Tommy Nepsted (verbal abuse and convulsions), Hutch Trash/ Kurt Mangold (guitar noise and howls), Frank Off/ Frank Morris (bass and angry shouting), and Bobby Fizz/ Rob Fitzgerald (drum, tin cans and old wine bottles) unleashed a drunken barrage of noise and fun that was the perfect soundtrack to a night shared among Rock & Roll loving friends. Mixing what one flyer described as “Warped 50’s Noisecore” with a dusting of Punk/Hardcore around the edges, the end result was a guaranteed good time-slash-headache.

Not since the Lindbergh kidnapping has there been such public shock and outrage. Gardrails defile everything that good, decent Americans hold near & dear. They are a menace that must be dealt with, or life as we know it will soon fall to decay, eaten away by this insipid and insolent NOISE.

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They didn’t last long really (how could they?), and aide from the occasional reunion everyone eventually drifted into other projects (Brompton’s Cocktail, National Public Radio), thus allowing the Gardrails to remain fixed as a perfect moment in time. As Yoko Ono said in describing the ongoing appeal of the Beatles: “The story of the Golden Temple: A guy fell in love with it and burned it down. He couldn’t stand the idea of it falling apart as it got older, and now the Golden Temple exists in perfect form forever. It became a myth.”

Stop them now, before they invade YOUR home, drink YOUR liquor, and turn YOUR children against YOU and the rest of society. And then they will start to play.

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I truly wish I had 20 more recordings to share here (their repertoire expanded well beyond these boundaries — certainly no finer version of “Blister in the Sun” was ever performed by anyone), but the links below should at least provide a glimpse into a better world than you might’ve ever imagined possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Gardrails.

1983: Live At The Loft in Lawrence, KS 11-19-83 (192 kbps)

01 Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly) (1:54)
02 Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (The Clash) (2:31)
03 Wescoe Beach (0:52)
04 Pipeline/Wipeout (The Chantays/The Surfaris) (4:17)
05 Tommy Splash On Guitar Blues (2:43)
06 Gardrails KJHK Station ID (1:05)
07 Stray Cat Strut (Stray Cats) (2:35)
08 Louie Louie (Richard Berry) (1:50)
09 Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Rolling Stones) (2:41)
10 President Reagan (1:25)
11 Voodoo Hippie (2:39)
12 Red Hightops (2:38)
13 Who Do You Love? (Bo Diddley) (2:10)

1984: Live At The Lawrence Opera House in Lawrence, KS 04-21-84 (Underground Music Festival) (192 kbps)

01 For Your Love (Yardbirds) (2:56)
02 Wescoe Beach (1:53)
03 C’mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran) (1:30)
04 Red Hightops (1:25)
05 Route 66 (Chuck Berry) (3:01)
06 Wild Thing (Troggs) (1:49)
07 Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Rolling Stones) (1:15)
08 Voodoo Hippie (3:59)
09 Stray Cat Strut (Stray Cats) (1:42)

1984: Unknown House Party in Lawrence, KS 00-00-84 (192 kbps)

01 C’mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran) (2:03)
02 Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly) (1:56)
03 Voodoo Hippie (3:50)
04 Good Lovin’ (The Rascals) (1:34)
05 Wild Thing (Troggs) (2:19)
06 Untitled (0:22)
07 Pipeline/Wipeout (The Chantays/The Surfaris) (3:07)
08 Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (The Clash) (2:17)
09 Wescoe Beach (1:38)
10 Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Rolling Stones) (1:49)
11 Fever (Otis Blackwell) (3:45)
12 Red Hightops (Incomplete) (0:09)

  1. nan
    March 7th, 2009 at 23:54 | #1

    the gardrails always had the best flyers.

  2. Tim
    March 8th, 2009 at 04:29 | #2

    I could have sworn I saw them play the Outhouse Labor Day weekend 1985. Maybe it was just a band with Kurt.

  3. March 8th, 2009 at 06:43 | #3

    Four of the flyers Jason posted are from 1985, so the ‘Rails were a functioning entity then; however, Tim, according to my records, it does look like Brompton’s Cocktail played the show you’re referring to. There were several reunions, of course, as Jason alluded to–including the flyered show with Die Kreuzen in November 1989 (note the flyer above referring to “the next decade”), and what I believe is the final Gardrails show, May 26 1991 at Rob and Kris’ wedding reception.

    Great job on the tracks and the graphics, Jason.

    (PS the GR/Die Kruezen flyers were colored in with markers by residents of 303 Elm, which basically consisted of the Kelly Girls and myself.)

  4. Chris
    May 15th, 2009 at 18:45 | #4

    Kurt and Rob lived across the hall from Bill B and me in Ellsworth hall 5th floor, circa 1982- Then Tommy started nosing around and soon after, the Gardrails were “born”

    So bad! They couldn’t play for sh*t at first!

  5. November 19th, 2009 at 08:00 | #5

    Never be afraid to do something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the titanic.

  6. Steve
    September 18th, 2010 at 16:02 | #6

    Tommy Splash & Butch Sick live across the hall from me in McCollum Hall on the 3rd floor.
    As I remember, the first Gardrail gig was in the backyard of a house on Learnard Street.
    The grass was wet and every time they would slam into each other they would get an electrical shock.

  7. Space Mouse
    September 21st, 2010 at 13:29 | #7

    @Mike Blur Die Kreuzen was 88. I wasn’t living in Lawrence in 89 and I did that show

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