Brad Nowell Years 1986-1988 - MC Naitch
Living with Brad 1986-1988
Words by MC Naitch
The following blurbs were my posts on the current Sublime Forum. Many of them were responses to specific inquiries so I hope that helps to explain their schizophrenic, random, and generally hodgepodge nature.
I originally got sucked into the Sublime Forum by responding to a Sublime timeline that seemed to be pretty inaccurate. I'm such a nitpicker. Here is my introductory post:
Hey Everyone (all 8 of you). I'm new to this site but I knew Brad pretty well and the above timeline is really not that great. Yes, most of it seems to be right but there are some glaring errors. Yes, they really don't matter but... Brad first went off to college to UCSC in 1986 (Stevenson College). He was a Slug for two eventful years. He wanted to go to UCLA and possibly follow his off and on love but he didn't make it in. (One of the main reasons he went to UCSC in the first place was because his girlfriend was already there. She left Satan Cruz a year before Brad and went to UCLA.) He went to CSU Long Beach and majored in a business related major and was a close second (or was it first?) in some major assessment. Business would not have been my first choice of a major for Brad but he was so smart that he could apply himself to anything that he was into. He was really close to graduating but never did. ____________________________________________________________________________________________
One way to look at the 1986 to 1988 period was that Brad had few collaborators or musical co-conspirators. It was a solo period when he didn't perform that much in public. He probably played with Eric and others when he returned to Long Beach for the summer of 1987. Sloppy Seconds had ceased to exist when I met Brad in 1986 but the way Brad talked about this group, it never seemed serious nor very organized. The members were mostly high-schoolers who wanted to party, get laid and play music. The only other member that I believe was in this group was Eric. Bud might have played drums for them occasionally but I don't think that he was a core member. When Brad ever referred to this band, the main emphasis was on the name of the band as a big joke. I don't think he would ever have mentioned it to me if he didn't think that the name was hilarious. I'm pretty sure that Brad occasionally played with a horn section but in which band, I have no frickin' idea. (This is so random and trivial but I think that he played with a girl named Ruth who played the sax.) As for Hogan's Heroes, I can't really trust my memory too much. Maybe he mentioned it to me or I could have just read about them in Crazy Fool. Recordings? I doubt it.
I would be surprised if there were any recordings of Sloppy Seconds or of Hogan's Heroes. You never know, but if any one is going to find them, it is Guitar Josh. They would probably be recordings of a horrendous quality.
My memories of the 1986-1988 period were of Brad listening to tons of music, playing his guitar and singing almost every day, recording the occasional song and writing down songs & other ideas. He was pretty well prepared once Sublime finally formed. I can only remember one real show from the Santa Cruz era. It was a solo acoustic show in one of the on-campus coffee shops. I don't think he advertised it at all. He just showed up, played a few X covers and other songs that I can't remember and that was it. Not too many people were there. There was also a note-worthy (pun intended) party at which a few guys were playing a gig and Brad just took the mic and blew everyone away. He did some sort of a spontaneous rap (no guitar) and that was it. There were countless private shows in our dorm room and later at our crappy apartment which we dubbed the Pink Palace. Kelly Nowell mentioned this place in Crazy Fool. During the week Brad would play whenever he wanted. It didn't matter if anyone was around or if others were trying to study. This is cliché but it was like it was just another basic human need for him like eating or sleeping. He had to play and sing. There wasn't that much more to it.
The weekend "private shows" would invariably involve an attractive young female who had a very hard time resisting the aphrodisiac effects of his music. We joked that normal morons like myself would make sure that the mini fridge was stocked with beer before going out on the weekend but Brad only tuned his guitars. I think that Brad recorded some of his music from this period. The best example being the song Ebin. Right before Brad departed Santa Cruz, a few friends came over to the Pink Palace and by hand wrote down many of the songs that Brad had been playing. They fastidiously copied them from the notebook or notebooks that Brad had been keeping. I remember thinking, "What are they doing?" Obviously they had a lot more foresight than I did but I probably never would have done that anyway. I'm kind of surprised that they have never surfaced. Hopefully Troy has at least the original. (Just don't let G-man get a hold of them. I heard that he would charge a fortune. Just kidding, I'm totally f'ing with you.)
The hair? Oh yes, the hair was very special. Before I met Brad, I don't think I had met a dude with bleached hair before. He generally had long bangs and it was short in the back like it should be. No mullets!!
The second year, he came back to school in the fall and he looked a little different. Maybe his hair was a little longer or something (and he had some new duds). I don't know if he had more of a surfer tan or something or his hair was whiter but the best way to describe him was that he was prettier. (Don't worry, I'm not going Sublime Brokeback Mountain on you). I can't even describe it. He was the same Brad but he just looked a little different. His personality didn't change a bit though. He was the same intelligent thrasher that I knew. His wild and reckless streak was still there with the same passion for music. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Brad served as my musical educator. I came to UCSC with a very, very limited musical knowledge. I was kind of a musical tabla rosa or whatever the blank tablet thing is called. Most of the first part of the music education course was taught in his cream colored Jeep Cherokee type vehicle as we drove around Santa Cruz looking for surf.
I think that we first listened to a lot of the Reggae Dance Hall Style artists or whatever they are called. I remember these the least probably because I didn't like them too much. I was asked before to name a few of the artists in this genre that we listened to and I really drew a blank. I think that it was Eek A Mouse, Yellow Man, and Pato Banton but I could be totally wrong. Maybe Half Pint was in the mix too but I might just be saying that because I heard it in a Sublime song this morning. I can’t really remember any songs at all from this genre. Brad clearly said once that he didn't like the Bob Marley roots stuff at all. I am really not much help at all with those artists.
There was a time when he repeatedly listened to the Beastie Boy's first album. Over and over and then 10 times more for good measure. It drove me crazy but I eventually grew to kind of like it. (Their later stuff is so much better) I was such a musical blank slate that I had never even been to a concert or show before. Wow. He took me to my first show which was a Camper Van Beethoven show on the west side of SC in the same complex as the big Safeway there. It was in some weird space there but really cool. He might have then afterward put on a little of CVB then like, "Take the Skinheads Bowling"
I have vague memories of him playing X or at least talking about them. I remember learning about John Doe and Xena (spelling). I only clearly remember him playing a few of their covers in his sole gig during his Santa Cruz years.
Three bands that he talked about but I don't think he played much were Bad Brains, Fishbone and Suicidal Tendencies. He had memorable stories from the last 2 bands but I'm not sure if I listened to those 3 bands that much with him. Okay I remember listening to Bad Brains with him but not as much as some other bands.
I think that the unofficial sound-track of the first year and maybe both years was the music of the Descendents. I absolutely love this band now and recommend everyone to listen to their stuff. I’m more into their studio stuff as opposed to the live album(s) but to each their own. Their influence on Sublime and Sublime’s music is huge. I’ll let the Sublimeologists do all the work on that. I feel that if Brad couldn’t play Sublime’s music, he would have been relatively satisfied just playing Descendents covers (Sour Grapes, No Fat Beaver, Pervert, Hürting Crüe, I'm not a Loser, In My Van, Wendy, Clean Sheets, etc..) We went to a Descendents show in Berkeley in the fall of 1986. Pretty awesome for the sheltered kid. We also went to a Butthole Surfers show. They projected this gruesome medical film of penis operations or something like that in the background. They had two drummers and the female one basically kicked my ass when I tried to do a stage dive. Brad and the other Pink Palace roommate held my legs down when I attempted to climb onto the stage and then she came out of nowhere through the fog filled stage and wrestled and danced on my back. I never remember him playing any Butthole Surfers tunes.
More Punk influences on Brad. Well, I’m listening to this cassette tape, as I type, of the Descendents and other bands. I’m not sure if Brad made it for me but it would make sense. It includes some classic songs of Fear, Suicidal Tendencies and the Vandals (Anarchy Burger.. Hold the Government Please is hilarious). Not too surprisingly, some Sublime lyrics seem to be influenced/borrowed/altered from these bands but especially from the Vandals.
A few other punk bands that Brad mentioned but maybe even never played for me were: Black Flag, Minutemen and (Rudimentary) Penni.
Much to Brad's dismay, I started to get into the Grateful Dead. We went to a show down in Monterey (maybe at the Laguna Seca racetrack) and that was an education in many ways for both of us. I don't think that he went to another Dead show after that. At some point, Brad got a hippie bumper sticker that read "Aint No Time to Hate" or something to that effect. It even had a Peace symbol on it. Brad was always making fun of hippies which is pretty easy to do when you're living in stinky hippie central, Santa Cruz. Brad was into the punk scene and identified with that a lot more. So Brad put this bumper sticker on his car because he thought it was hilarious, not because he really bought into the message 100%. He would joke, "I GOT PLENTY OF TIME TO HATE, HIPPY!" We were driving back to Santa Cruz and a car load of hippies came by and gave an approving honk and the thumbs up. Well, Brad loved that so much. He thought that was one of the funniest things ever (I don't think a peace sign was flashed. Brad would have shat himself cracking up.) This bumper sticker actually stayed on the car longer than you would have thought.
A while later, we were making the long drive from Santa Cruz down to L.A./Long Beach and for whatever weird reason, Brad decided to let me put in some of “my music.” I put in some random Grateful Dead tape. At some point, Brad got totally obsessed with some song and specifically with just the chorus or something and he kept playing it over and over. Now, I think the song was Sugar Magnolia. He just was totally fascinated by it and I was blown away because he had been spewing venom against the Dead for the previous 9 months. If you knew Brad before Scarlet Begonias came out, this behavior of obsessing on one small part of a GD tune was very shocking. (In retrospect it doesn't shock me at all. Brad was a musician through and through.) It completely blew me away but with most things at the time, I didn’t really think much about it. (Can you all imagine how much I would have remembered if I knew that some day Brad would be a big rock star? At the time everything didn’t seem to be as fascinating as it is now.)
I was positively baffled when 40 oz. to Freedom came out and there was a Dead cover on it. I was like, “Is this a joke?” I also got confused and thought that the song Brad had obsessed on was actually Scarlet Begonias, but I’m pretty sure that it was Sugar Magnolia. Eric also had a t-shirt that had Jerry Garcia’s mug on it and it said, “I’ll be Grateful when he’s dead!” Not quite the band that is going to do a dead cover. I theorized that the inclusion of a Dead song on their album was a savvy business move to appeal to some of their potential audience that was into the Dead. It sounds like a potential financial juggernaut; getting the lovers of ska, reggae, punk and the Grateful Dead to dig your band all at the same time.
Not sure of this one but I think we listened to Public Enemy in the apartment close to the time of him leaving Santa Cruz. No KRS-1 played that I knew of or remembered. One final band that I'm unsure of was NWA. I listened to that group in the Pink Palace but it might have been after Brad's departure.
Many of you are probably snickering because of my faulty memory. "Come on dude, you were living with THE BRAD NOWELL. You must remember every last detail." Well most of you will probably not remember every stinking detail of things you deemed irrelevant 22 years later. So back off.
From a song standpoint, maybe the most noteworthy moment was his encounter with Ebin. Yes, the dude was actually named that. Brad and I would see this crazy-looking dude around campus who had these super long dreads (don't forget that this was 1986 and dreads were really not that commom yet). At the end of the dreads, his natural hair was growing an inch or two and it was bleached blond. We would always trip out on him. Well Brad and Ebin finally met up. It might have been at a party where Brad ended up taking the mike and he rapped and free-styled, blowing everyone away. Anyway, Ebin came over to our apartment which was called the Pink Palace and played bass with Brad while Brad played guitar. I think that they only played twice or maybe just once and Ebin gets a song named after him!! That's not cool. I wanted a song named after me. Ebin was not a Nazi, by the way. I saw Ebin once in San Francisco and he had changed. I don't think that I ever got to tell Brad that.
Well, the "real" account of Ebin is also on SublimeWiki but under Miscellaneous. Go there now to read the more personal and accurate account (written by the real Eben) of how playing with Eben turned into an amazing song. Eben's Account
This rambling is loosely connected to the song, "Paddle Out"
Once Brad convinced me to allow him to drive a car I was borrowing. Four of us piled into this 70's style boxy sedan with surfboards stuffed inside the car and we headed off to the West Side. First stop, Stockton St. We're pulling up and we see a set coming in so three of us jump out excitedly to get a good view (Brad, at the helm, was probably the first out of the vehicle). A second or two later, we hear a scream coming from the car with the door open, no driver or occupant visible, and the car is bolting in reverse across West Cliff Drive. The car crashes up and over the curb into some ice plant and our friend Jon comes crawling out, scared sh#tless. Brad says, "What are you doing dude? Poor Jon was crawling out from the back seat from under the boards but Brad was so fired up he didn't properly put the car in park (You know what is right below "Park"). I drive the car off the iceplant bushes and half way across the street the car completely lifts up off the asphalt, stops and then continues. The tail pipe had wrapped around the axel. Bummer. The girl whose car it was not too happy. Yes, we scored pretty good surf if I remember correctly. Moral of the story: only idiots let Brad (even a sober Brad) drive their car. More random trivia... I think Brad's favorite spot was Natural Bridges which is close to Stockton. Actually it might have been 4 Mile. We went there so many times in 86/87.
Once again I have no clue how Brad created a song out of this. This song kind of seems like filler on the Sublime album but it does briefly highlight some pretty cool surf guitar. It seemed like Brad and I drove a lot between Steamer's Lane and Natural Bridges. The soundtrack that I most vividly remember for this trip was the first Beastie Boys album. I hated it at first but after the 15th time at ear drum popping volume, I started to get into it. Relisten to 40 oz. to Freedom and its influence has to be there.
You just opened another door for me to be a little negative on Michael/Miguel again. The way I understand it and I kind of was there when Miguel started hanging with Sublime was that Michael never was asked to be part of the group. He had recording connections so Sublime/Brad was all over that. Then he kept hanging around the band making himself useful (and only working for a few beers, a few tokes and the stokes of hanging with an awesome band) and then before they knew it they depended on him for a lot of things and they really couldn't kick him out because he was never really "in" officially. The way I see it and remember it is that he just sort of smoothly made himself very useful. I never ever got the feeling that all 3 of them and especially Brad thought that he was an amazing musician nor a great sound engineer. Besides the free recording time and knowledge, Miguel's biggest contribution from about 1988 to around 1992 was being a solid manager and getting the boys from gig to gig. He actually did this until the end but because of many issues he needed help from Blaine and what's his name at the record label to do this. I really don't think that Sublime would have toured so much if it weren't for Miguel. They definitely would not have done shows in Florida or the East Coast w/o Miguel. Miguel had his act together enough to almost always get the boys to the shows and find various couches for them to crash on. Back in those days, Sublime wasn't really big enough yet to get the second tier Rock and Roll red carpet so Miguel made sure that hosts like myself got cool free stuff like T-shirts, and the music for free (I still have my free Jah won't pay the Bills and my free 40 Oz. and the original black T which G-man says is rare becuase mine is long sleeves. Blah, blah, blah. Aren't I so fricking cool??). So yes Michael/Miguel helped the band a lot but it wasn't always musically or behind the sound board. I don't think he was the main man behind the recording of Stand by Your Van. I was at one of the Kommotion in SF shows and for some reason I think that someone else did the main sound work. Some of the stuff that you hear from Miguel now is revisionist history. Brad is not around to say, "No, that's not actually the way it went down." One more relatively big contribution that Michael should get credit for is helping manage the Brad drug problem. He was never an enabler and he really was trying his hardest to keep Brad off and away from the stuff. He wasn't even a meth user so he didn't even contribute that way to Brad's problems. He was just fighting too alone on this front and Brad was so strong willed that Miguel was not always successful. What few people realize is that the morning Brad died, most of us were totally shocked because Brad's hotel was as far as posssibly could be from the drug areas of San Francisco. I give Miguel the credit for that and most of us didn't see Brad getting drugs from some scummy promoter. I don't know if Brad got the heroin from him but he probably got the speed from him and then he wanted to come down/sleep so he used the chiva to try to do this and then... end of song. Sorry for the rambling. There was a clear period that Brad was really not into Miguel. Brad wanted him out and gone. I really don't know why and probably shouldn't speculate/spread rumors more than I have already. Brad said something to me during this period to the effect of, "Oh man, I really just wish he (Miguel) would go away. I'm not into him." This was around 1992/1993. Brad was never really effusive (is that the right word?) with his praise for Miguel. I never got the feeling that Brad was super stoked to have Michael/Miguel around. So to finally respond to what Party@groundzero was saying is that, "I don't think Brad wanted Miguel to jump in on the guitar to back him because I don't think that Brad thought too highly of him musically." I always felt that Miguel was sort of an interloper and unwanted guest. Brad never ever gave me that feeling about Bud or Eric. He thought very highly of Eric and Bud's musical skills. They WERE Sublime with him. I don't think Brad ever thought of Michael as the fourth member of Sublime. It felt like sometimes Brad was trying to keep him away from spoiling the musical gumbo that the three of them were creating.
Don't hate me because I'm not the biggest Miguel/Michael fan. I have tried to be as fair and accurate as my memory serves me. __________________________________________________________________________________________________
I wish that I could remember all of the classes that Brad took at UCSC. I do remember some because we took them together or we discussed something related to the class.
A year-long class that we were all required to take was a class that tried to tackle many of the classic books in the Western Civilization canon. We started with the Iliad of Homer and ended with the Autobiography of Malcolm X. We read and discussed many others in between like Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Jefferson, Freud, some writings on the Vietnam war and many many others that I can't even remember. I'm pretty sure that Mein Kampf was not part of this course. All in all, mostly classic Western writings. Almost all of them except Malcolm X were from very old and dead white men.
I think that one of his favorite philosophers was Nietzche. I believe that we got into discussing it when one or both us saw the quote, "'Nietzche is dead.' -God." This was a joke made off the famous Nietzche quote, "God is dead." I don't even know how much of his stuff Brad read but he was definitely interested in what he had to say. The shock value of many of Nietzche writings and especially in the context of 19th century Europe made Brad drawn to him to learn more. The whole concept of a different moral code also fascinated him. I've always heard that early hard-core punk rock philosophy and behavior of the late 70's/early 80's tended toward the nihilistic. Brad could easily relate to this just because of he was and then later, he basically found the intellectual underpinnings for it. One could even argue that Brad's later addictions and depression almost sprung out of some existential despair. Jim said in Crazy Fool that Brad was seriously searching for the meaning of life and I wouldn't be surprised that Brad kind of came to the same conclusion that many existentialists did. This would be that life has no meaning and that it is all basically pointless. Wow, that was a tangent.
During the very first quarter of college Brad took an upper division literature course on Chaucer. He should not have taken it because it was his first literature course and it was generally designed for junior and senior Lit majors. Doing this is pretty typical Brad. He was so unafraid of going against the rules and "suggestions." He couldn't trust anyone's word that he shouldn't do something. He had to figure it out himself by first-hand experience. This is almost the story of his life, testing the generally accepted assumptions of society. Once someone said that he shouldn't do something, he then wanted to do it just to find out what it was like or why he shouldn't do it.
Brad was really into this Chaucer course especially the Canterbury Tales. He would talk to me about the course eventhough I hadn't read anything close to Chaucer (14th century, right?). He was particularly fascinated by the Wife of Bath. Brad and I would always be checking out everyone on campus and finally one day, he looked at one of our distant acquaintances and proclaimed her the Wife of Bath. She had a gap tooth and it was pretty hilarious but he never told her. In retrospect and being a teacher myself, I think that this is one of the best things you want a student to do after reading something. That is making connections to their own lives and making the story relevant to them eventhough it was written 600 years ago.
Santa Cruz is a very "special" place. The politics, especially on campus, are very far left wing. I was a little surprised when Brad signed up for an Introduction to Feminism class. It was a very popular class on campus but not too shocking, it was particularly popular among women. He agreed with all of the ideas espoused simply because they were presented so logically and without any histeria. Feminism was basically just presented to both of us as simple common sense: of course women should have the same opportunities and pay levels as men. Why should society determine what roles they have to take? (Sorry for the weak attempted summation of feminism.)
His t.a. for the feminism course was the only male on campus who was a women studies major. He had that as his major along with pre-med requirements as a way to present himself as a uniquely qualified candidate for med school (hopefully not in Grenada). Anyways, after class one day the t.a. said to Brad something about the attractive females in the class and Brad was just flabbergasted. Normally Brad would engage a dude in this type of conversation and not see anything wrong with it at all but I think that he thought the t.a. was kind of abusing his power. Or more likely, Brad was floored because he thought the guy was not really taking the lessons of the class to heart like Brad was. Brad thought that the guy being a women studies major was just a total cynical ploy and that he was totally full of shit, a veritable wolf in sheep's clothing. I thought that this was just another example of how Brad really took seriously what he was reading and learning. He wasn't just taking classes to get a degree, he was really into what he was learning. Another class and set of readings that had a huge impact on Brad was a class that he took on the Holocaust. It was maybe during this class that he read Mein Kampf or at least read some of it. Maybe he didn't even read it during college it but he learned what it was all about.
This class helped Brad to really see and feel the horrible consequences of genocide. Like most of us, he probably hadn't thought much about the human toll of the Holocaust until this class. It was a huge eye and heart opener for him. At one point, it just felt like he was taking on so much of the pain and suffering that he was learning about. Brad must have written the song Ebin before this but maybe only by a month or two. I do have another story that will probably shed a little light on this and I'll probably share it eventually.
We were both pretty studious during the week while at school. Our lives were basically surfing, classes, and studying. Brad obviously spent a decent amount of time playing music too and I was probably a little more studious than him but he really was getting a pretty good education while at Santa Cruz. He rarely partied during the week, almost exclusively on Friday and Saturday nights. I really can not tell you the title of one book that Brad read from June 1988 to his death in 1996. From reading Crazy Fool I assume that he read a decent amount of Henry Miller but apart from that I have no clue. I also may have gleaned this from Crazy Fool or from Eric or Miguel or Troy that Brad would just "borrow" books from people's shelves when he was crashing at their houses during a Sublime tour. Upon finishing the liberated book he would then put it in the place of his next piece of lit larcency in another city or state. It was the Brad Nowell book of the month club gone haywire.
Our second year together we lived off campus with another room mate in a crappy apartment called the Pink Palace. I think it was at this pad that my habit of reading at the dinner or breakfast table began. Our table was a filthy table of which every inch was covered with Garbage Pail stickers (you know the ones like Guilotine Guilermo, Barfing Bart or Cut-up Chris that had accompanying semi-gory pictures?). If I remember it right, we would sit at the table with whatever we were reading and just chow in silence, absorbed into our own books. We didn't have the habit of a nice social meal in which we would check how the other person's day went. I'm forgetting a few things but... enjoy. I'm sorry that I listed very few specific book titles. I hope that my little piece gives you a little sense of what he was like intellectually and personally at that time (or at least how I remember it) ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ For this last recollection, please don't include with links or copy it to somewhere else. Thanks!
In my brain, my Brad ramblings are simply a chapter of Crazy Fool that was left out of the original book. I really hope that they show the non-addict Brad, a side of him that hasn't been highlighted that much.
The following anecdote involved a very torturous internal debate over whether to make it semi-public or not. I'm still not completely convinced that I even should be sharing it with anyone. I'm just not a big believer in burying the past and denial and all of those sorts of behaviors. Maybe this is the one instance where I should have just let the past lie. For me though, the entire incident sheds light on Brad's incredibly unique personality and kind of what made him tick For accurate understanding of this story, the context is really important. Please don't paraphrase this account or only copy parts. In fairness to Brad and his family, the context of it has to be always told.
So Brad and I were typical college sophomores in many ways. On weekends, we were all about drinking and trying to have a good time. One Friday night in late winter/early Spring we ended up partying up in the dorms with some friends even though we lived in town in an apartment. Our choice of alcohol that night was fortified and crappy red wine for street alcoholics. We or someone had probably listened to the Guns N Roses song Nighttrain and we thought that that was cool. I don't remember if the wine was Nightrain or Thunderbird but it was cheap, plentiful, and got you feeling good quickly. I don't think that we had imbibed that much but when I went to the bathroom, I came out of the stall and Brad was drawing a massive swastika on a wall. It was accompanied by the words "White Power" or something else equally idiotic. I guess that he also wrote similar sentiments on the dry erase note pads of a few residents on the hall. Our "college" at Santa Cruz was also well-known for being the Jewish college so I think you can start to see the swirling collision of many factors combining to make this a calamity. In my drunken stupor, I tried to voice my disgust with Brad but I was too late to erase anything or talk any sense into him.
The climate on the UC Santa Cruz campus at the time was extreme orthodox liberalism with copious of amounts of militant political correctness piled everywhere. I don't blame anyone for being extremely offended but the ensuing reaction was so over the top and crazy that it left me shaking my head. I felt this way because I knew the intent or lack of intent behind Brad's actions. He wasn't racist or prejudiced or a bigot of any type. He was a simple button-pusher, a rabble rouser, who when drunk could make really bad decisions. Some where in the back of his mind, he had to be trying to say f*@k you to all of the hypocritical, uptight, self-righteous people who push their ideas down others' throats. He grabbed for something that he knew would offend and boy did it. It was the worst part of his impulsive punk side that he obviously couldn't always control. Brad's dad said that Brad never got away with anything and this seems to be another clear example of this.
As I'm slowly realizing, Brad feared very few things and he was the type of person who had to find out for himself the consequences of actions that he shouldn't do. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a fatal character trait. He would do almost anything once. You can say to most people, "Dude, don't do heroin (or other stupid stuff), it will mess you up, ruin your life and maybe kill you," and your "average" person will say "Okay, yah, that sounds messed up. I don't want to play with that." Brad was the opposite, "He had to experience first hand why he shouldn't do something." I can imagine him as a small or not so small child who would put his hand in a flame because he just had to see for himself what would happen. He thought that a lot of the efforts to get kids to not do drugs was utter bullsh*t and simple outright lies. But I digress, as usual.
A quick story illustrates his fearlessness, stubbornness, and will to "put his hand in the flame." Brad briefly took classes at two different high schools. His main and first school was Wilson which was known as Long Beach's white school but that description doesn't do justice to its actual diversity. He also briefly took a few science classes at the more inner-city Long Beach High School, Poly. On the weekends he would go to some of the parties that the Poly students would throw. There was this one dude there that would always beat up Brad. And what did Brad do? He would just keep going back and he would keep getting beat up. He said to a very exasperated and worried Janie that the bully would eventually like him or at least accept him and he did. That story amazes me but doesn't surprise me.
The following Monday after the swastika incident, things seemed to happen real quickly. Brad was promptly identified as the perpetrator and the school newspaper and various activists were all over it. There was a town hall type meeting at our college that Thursday night very near to where the incident happened. A pretty big and angry mob turned out. Brad and his long-time girlfriend Gina sat there in the middle of all of it. I have a very vivid memory of Brad sitting there with his head down and his bleached blond hair blocking his face. I could barely see his face but his expression and his body language were two things that I only saw once. He seemed to internalize all of the angry comments and he definitely realized that he had f-ed up pretty badly.
I still feel guilty that I never said anything at the meeting. I simply didn't have the courage nor the oratorical skills nor the finely articulated message that could make a little sense to the pissed off people. It would have been a losing proposition anyway but I could have at least tried. It would have been hard to convince the outraged masses that despite Brad's artistic renderings, he wasn't really racist at all. I don't think that they would have understood that the swastika was just Brad's way of pushing the envelope and his way of being punk rock. Brad simply couldn't wholeheartedly drink the hippie/leftist cool-aid like I could. He took a few sips but he had to compensate for that by his own form of rebellion, albeit a very lame and ill-conceived one. He should have just tried to argue with the other students about how awesome Reagan was even if he didn't believe it. A few people that knew Brad understood that Brad was not racist. A friend who turned out to be a rabbi spoke at the meeting and even he was not hysterical nor particularly worried.
So further punishment for Brad was that he was put on some form of behavioral or academic probation for a while. The main part was that he was forced to take a quarter-long course (we weren't on the semester system) on the Holocaust in the spring of 1988. Brad threw himself entirely into the course and read everything that he was supposed to. It's too bad that he didn't choose to take it on his own before the unfortunate incident. I don't even think that Brad's dedication and enthusiasm for the course was because he was trying to prove that he wasn't racist (maybe there was a little of that). He simply was fascinated by it and completely emotionally and intellectually drawn to it. Twenty-two years later, I realize that if Brad really had to draw a swastika, he should have drawn a counter-clockwise one, in the Hindu or the Buddhist style. After all, the swastika is a pretty ancient and common symbol. It generally was seen as a sign of good luck and as a sun symbol. One even appeared in various Coca Cola advertising campaigns in 1916 and in 1925. It was a symbol used in many different cultures from Native American to Armenian to the Baltic Region to three different religions of India: Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Sorry for going pedantic wikipedia-plagarizing on you. Of course, I first learned from Brad that the Nazis didn't create the symbol themselves.
Contrary to what people like Eben said before, Brad was not kicked out of UC Santa Cruz. He voluntarily left on his own due to a lot of factors. The university administration wasn't making things easy for him. I'm not sure if he had to do more courses or more forms of "punishment." Another factor, I think, is that Brad simply was not a Northern California type of person. I think that he was simply more comfortable in the L.A. area. A third reason is that his long-time girlfriend had left the year before to go to UCLA. She was the original reason that he came to UC Santa Cruz. So when Brad decided to leave Santa Cruz, he tried to get into UCLA but was not accepted. I actually think that things might have turned out differently for Brad if he had gone to UCLA. I'm hoping that he would have been able to resist the drugs a little bit more. There's not much logic to my argument (didn't Jim Morrison also go to UCLA?) but I think that he would have been more distracted and more academically challenged at UCLA then at CSULB. Hopefully he wouldn't have been as tempted by the environs of Bruinville than he was by the streets of Long Beach. Another magnet pulling Brad back to Long Beach was Sublime. Bud, Eric, and Brad had their famous 5-day jam session during Brad's 1988 spring break so maybe that was something that helped him to decide to head back to the LBC. I'm not sure if Brad decided to head back before or after spring break. The final factor pushing Brad back to Long Beach was Brad feeling that he wasn't supported by me or by our other room mate. I had even decided that I couldn't live with Brad for a third year at Santa Cruz but I'm not sure if I ever vocalized that to him. Maybe I did and Brad didn't want to have to find new roommates/friends.
Some of you, at this point, are wondering what is up with Brad and his fascination with the Nazis. Besides this incident, I'm going to list a few places where the Sublime fan has to be scratching her/his head.
- The song Ebin ("My friend Ebin is a Nazi!"). For the life of me, I can’t remember if the vandalism happened first or his jam session with Eben. They were definitely right around the same time. Very weird.
- The song, Same in the End has a quick Nazi reference at the beginning of it.
- In Crazy Fool there is an incredibly well written piece by Brad that was part of his writing requirement while he was at CSULB. In it he somehow manages to seamlessly blend a reflection on a bumper sticker, Nazism, his neighbor and questioning authority all into the same essay. It’s really well done. This was written in early 1990, about 2 years after the graffiti incident.
- More references that my limited Sublime knowledge can not conjure up at the time. Help.
In the whole California punk scene of the 80's and I know I'm being way too general here, there were tons of references to the Nazi's evil deeds and to Hitler. I assume that this was partly because it was just an easy way to be provocative and anti-social. Once again I need your help in fleshing this out. Eric himself had a joke t-shirt that read something like "Hitlers European Tour 1939-1945" and on the back it had the "tour dates" and under England 1939 it said canceled. I think that there's a picture of Eric wearing this shirt in Crazy Fool but I can't remember. There was also a core member of the Sublime crew that had a crude swastika tattoo. This tattoo was covered up eventually with other tattoos. My point in bringing all of this up is that Brad's stupid decision did not come without precedent or a certain amount of "inspiration." He had seen skinheads and others make idiotic statements about Hitler and Nazism for a while.
I might be stretching the comparisons too far but Brad's daring and fearlessness (and yes some drunken stupidity) in exploring and experiencing everything led him to disaster but it also brought us the amazing music of Sublime combining punk, ska, and reggae and just good music. His flirtation with many types of music brought him scorn from some but it also brought us amazing tunes with everlasting soul and a fierce beating heart long after his own stopped.
Please don't copy or put a link to this very last memory (the other ones are fine, I guess)