‘80s punk band, The Dicks, are the subject of a documentary being released this month titled The Dicks From Texas, as well as a related compilation tribute album. I recently had the opportunity to screen the documentary, which can be pre-ordered here, and it rekindled my love affair with The Dicks—who, in my opinion, are a top shelf American punk act, worthy of as much attention and admiration as Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, or Minor Threat.
Head Dick, Gary Floyd
Hailing from Austin, Texas at a time when the town wasn’t quite the bastion of liberal hipsterocity it is today, the self-proclaimed “commie faggot band” featured singer Gary Floyd, a flamboyantly queer, communist behemoth who often performed early gigs in drag. Floyd’s larger-than-life stage presence wasn’t mere shock value, he had the pipes to back it up. His, please forgive this played-out term, soulful vocals lent an impassioned urgency to the band’s sharp trebly guitar attack. In my opinion, no other singer from the “hardcore” era can touch him. Bad Brains’ HR and Fear’s Lee Ving may sit in his court, but Gary Floyd is the king.
The band began humbly as not even a band, but as a “poster band”—a fake name put on posters as sort of an “art piece.”
The Dicks from Texas producer, Cindy Marabito:
The Dicks started when singer Gary Floyd returned to Austin, TX after seeing the Sex Pistols in San Francisco. He started claiming he had a band called the Dicks. This was known as a “poster band.” Fliers were made with fake shows and non-existent groups.
Gary Floyd would go around town putting up posters advertising The Dicks with crazy ass pictures and promises that the ‘first ten people with guns drink for free.’ It was a wild and crazy time in Austin, back when ‘keeping Austin weird’ got you thrown in jail.
The title cut from The Dicks’ first single, “Hate the Police,” released in 1980 is one of their most well-known songs, but everything they recorded in their original incarnation from 1980 to 1986 is gold. The Peace? EP, the split live LP with the Big Boys, the Kill From the Heart LP, and the These People LP are all monsters and I’d be torn on trying to recommend any one of those over another. Alternative Tentacles put out a compilation titled Dicks: 1980-1986—that’s a good “greatest hits” type starting place.
If you’re among the Dangerous Minds readership that has somehow never been exposed to the glory of The Dicks, I have a few favorites I’d like to share that have been mixtape staples of mine for decades.
Can I pick a favorite song by The Dicks? No, but this one’s up there: “Rich Daddy.”
You got money?
Well, then you’re livin’ the good life
You got a big fat daddy at home
Writin’ checks tonight
You got nothing?
Well, then you’re livin’ a bad life
You got a big, fine car
And you eye me while you pass me by
A rich daddy? No! I never had one!
A rich daddy? No! No! I never had one
Another favorite, “Kill From the Heart,” off the album of the same name:
When I see you walking down the street
It’s so hard to take
Come on and give me a break
You’re spending all your fuckin’ time with school
Those lessons you learn
Are making you a fool
Daddy’s boy got some brand new cash
Now you’re messin’ with REDS
Who are gonna kick your ass
Come on fucker!
Give me a break!
You fuckin’ Pig
Death is your fate!
It’s from the heart
You need to be shot
This is the first song I ever heard by The Dicks, “I Hope You Get Drafted.” It appears on their Peace? EP and on the P.E.A.C.E. Compilation, which is where I first heard it. I think about these lyrics every single time I ever hear anyone arm-chair quarterbacking U.S. foreign policy:
You don’t care about nuclear war -or how many people die
You’re always laughing in the face of death
I’ll look you straight in the eye -and say:
‘I hope you get drafted,
I hope your mama cries,
You apolitical asshole,
I hope you’re the first to die’
The new documentary got me on this kick and I’ve dug out all my original vinyl (including that original press of the “Hate the Police” single—don’t ask how much that set me back, I don’t wanna talk about it). The documentary itself is an obvious labor of love. I’m not certain that I would recommend it to someone who wasn’t already a fan, but if you’ve followed the history of The Dicks at all, it’s pretty charming. It’s a lo-fi DIY affair which mainly consists of old friends reminiscing about the group. It paints a pretty good picture of what Austin, Texas was like in 1980—certainly a different place than it is today. The documentary includes some crucial live footage—I found myself wishing there was a lot more of that! If your interest is beyond passing, I recommend it. The importance of this band as an in-your-face outfit singing about queer issues (check out their “Saturday Night at the Bookstore” and “Off Duty Sailor”) when it was still rather dangerous—even in the punk scene—to do so, and as a band that influenced other groups with their refreshing originality in a hardcore wasteland becomes more and more clear upon viewing. Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and Mike Watt all make necessary appearances (what? no Dave Grohl?), expounding on how blown away they were upon paired with The Dicks on bills. Until the documentary gets released later this month, you can always hit up the YouTubes to further explore more of this classic “Rock Against Reagan” band.
Flyer for the ‘Rock Against Reagan’ tour—organized by The Yippies!
So, today, can we just talk about how great The Dicks were?
Here’s The Dicks live in 1984:
And in 1985, with Gary Floyd looking a bit like a chubby Jeffrey Lee Pierce:
And my favorite live footage I’ve seen of them, this was originally released as a VHS tape in the ‘80s titled ‘Fun With Dicks and Jane.’ It has great sound quality and some fun interviews (with Gary Floyd in full drag):
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Punk Under Reagan: Texas in the 80s