Today we bring you a clip from one of last year’s Halloween shows, a rare recording of Charleston’s princes of punk, Clownhole, remixed in 2006 and with a video created by my brother, Frank Panucci.
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Clownhole was John “Sham Voodoo” Estep, Chris “Flair” Canfield, and Randy “No Nickname” Brown. Estep had been in The Defectors, the Charleston band that had development deals with Warner Brothers and EMI in the early 1980s. Here in town they’d opened for KISS, Duran Duran, and The Police. By the late 80s they had broken up, and Sham had moved on to Clownhole, which was billed as a “comedy/punk” band. They had a backdrop that featured a painting of a clown bending over. A strategically-placed hole was where the hose from the fog machine was fed through, so that the clown looked to be eerily flatulent.
I remember this because the first time I got to see the band they mistook me for the guy who held the hose, so I spent the first couple of songs blowing fog out of a clown’s butt. The band played a mix of great originals and cover tunes by the Pixies, Go Gos and classic punk bands, plus the occasional gem like the theme song from The Banana Splits.
Later today, in our audio flashback, you’ll hear an announcement for Sham’s surprise birthday party. You’ll also hear some of The Swivels milling about in the studio, and if I can figure out a tasteful way to edit it, a discussion about what was supposed to be Clownhole’s last concert. By Spring 1990, the band had decided to go their separate ways. They had scheduled their big farewell show, “The Last Fart,” at the Charleston Playhouse in March of that year, but in the true spirit of punk rock, the band broke up a week before they were scheduled to break up.
Clownhole’s big crowd-pleaser was an original tune called “Heads On Fire,” which is featured in our clip today. The recording I had of the song was of such poor quality that I gave it to my brother, Frank, to see if it could be salvaged. He remixed it, losing the spoken-word part that just didn’t come through on tape, and he also created a video using animation and stock footage. It’s one of the high points of RFC.
By way of explanation, I should point out that this was one of our Halloween shows. That’s why I’m made up to look like a dead guy while I’m doing the intro. Rest assured, I didn’t go all Goth on you.
You can see this clip Saturday night as part of the Radio Free Charleston retrospective at the La Belle Theater in South Charleston. Just to clarify things, you won’t be seeing the clip featuring The Amazing Delores, nor will you see Sean Richardson’s film about unicorns, despite what it says in the print Gazz this morning. I’m still trying to figure out why nobody asked me what we were going to show Saturday night before they wrote that and chose the pictures. If you check out the graphic in the Gazz this morning, rest assured, one of those four images will be seen on the big screen Saturday night.