CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE (r.i.p. 1979-1980)
CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE started rehearsing around the end
of August 1979. Forming the band was chiefly an idea between Claude
Bessy, who was editor/writer extraordinaire of Slash Magazine, and Craig
Lee, who was in the BAGS at the time and also a music writer. Claude
wanted to be in a band, but could not play anything. Craig stepped in
and offered to help Claude put the band together. The original idea
behind the forming of the band was for members to use it as a vehicle
from which to play an instrument that they were not accustomed to (Craig
played bass for the BAGS, Robert played guitar in the ZEROS, etc…) and
as a vehicle for Claude's writing…putting his poems into song. The band
was also meant to be a vehicle for experimentation as the members had
all been in early punk bands and wanted to try out newer post-punk type
music and sounds.
Phranc from NERVOUS GENDER and Rick Brodey from the BPEOPLE
quickly joined up as well as scene newcomer Richard Meade. This line
up rehearsed several times in August and September before playing their
debut gig on September 14, 1979 at the Hong Kong Café. The Hong Kong
Café would become home base for most of this group's career. The band
quickly garnered press from Slash and through Kristine McKenna of the
Los Angeles Times.
After a few shows, Richard Meade would leave the band to
be replaced by Robert Lopez (formerly of the ZEROS) who stayed with
the band until the end. While Robert was with the band, they were invited
to go on a tour of Europe with ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, but they turned
the offer down. Around the same time, the band was filmed by Penelope
Spheeris during several practices and finally filmed for their segment
of 'The Decline of Western Civilization' at a Hong Kong Café show on
January 19th, 1980. The band continued until the spring of 1980 when
they finally disintegrated into different projects. The band only played
in Los Angeles with the exception of one show in San Francisco. CATHOLIC
DISCIPLINE are the only group to appear in the 'Decline' that never
released a record of their own…until now.
CLAUDE BESSY (a.k.a. Kickboy Face)
Claude originally came to the U.S. from France in 1973
and was already writing incendiary diatribes by 1975 while working at
a restaurant on the Santa Monica pier. Claude started L.A.'s first reggae
magazine called Angeleno Dread before creating a larger home for his
caustic voice with Slash Magazine, which he co-founded in May 1977.
Claude was editor/writer of Slash and kept it going until he left the
U.S. in October 1980. He left before the official premier of the 'Decline'.
Claude spent some time working for Rough Trade Records in England. He
also produced some music videos for the VIRGIN PRUNES and the FALL and
did promotional work for NICK CAVE and SONIC YOUTH. Claude also produced
a film on William S. Burroughs before moving to Spain in 1987, where
he lived the rest of his life with his long-time love Philomena Winstanley-Bessy.
Around 1991, Claude recorded two tracks with RAEO in Spain. These final
emissions appear on this disc. Claude checked out of the hotel life
Phranc went from NERVOUS GENDER to CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE and
then to CASTRATION SQUAD. Phranc was only in CASTRATION SQUAD for a
few months before parting to become a full-time solo artist. She has
been billed as "America's premier Jewish lesbian folk singer" and has
released several studio albums to critical acclaim. Phranc is still
active in music, but also divides her time between selling Tupperware
and raising a family of her own.
Craig Lee became a member of the legendary BAGS after responding
to an ad in the L.A. recycler. After that, Craig was a veritable man
of steel on the early L.A. punk rock scene. Craig played in several
different bands while still with the BAGS and even after the BAGS. He
was also a music writer for the L.A. Weekly. While still with the BAGS,
Craig helped form CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE. After the band disappeared, he
continued with the BAGS until they, in turn, disappeared. After that
he played in several bands including the BONEHEADS with Alice Bag and
Robert Lopez. Craig continued to make music in one way or another, and
write, until his untimely death in 1991.
ROBERT LOPEZ (a.k.a. El Vez)
Robert Lopez was a founding member of the legendary ZEROS.
He left the ZEROS in the summer of 1978 and was without a band until
Craig Lee asked him to take over on keyboard/synth as Richard Meade
was leaving the band. Robert Lopez joined CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE in the
late Fall of 1979 and stayed with the band until they disintegrated.
After CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE, he played in the BONEHEADS with Craig Lee
an also did some reunions with the ZEROS until finally developing his
alternate ego known as 'El Vez'. Robert Lopez currently continues to
perform solo as El Vez and has released several albums of Elvis songs
that have been 'Mexicanized' as well as original songs inspired by the
King and early rock'n'roll.
Rick Brodey was an early member of the BPEOPLE, but did
not last long with them. He was recruited by Craig Lee to join CATHOLIC
DISCIPLINE and was in the band from beginning to end. Around this time
he was married to Pat Bag and you can see him using her bass guitar
from the BAGS in 'Decline'. After CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE, Rick was in the
SHADOW MINSTRELS. Rick was a long time employee of Rhino Records and
aided in the release of many of great anthology releases for them including
the 'Nuggets' boxed sets. Rick still plays music as time permits.
Richard Meade is a bit of an elusive mystery man. He was
the first synth/keyboard player for CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE and is credited
with co-writing "Underground Babylon" with Claude Bessy. Richard got
stressed out about things, which caused him to want to leave the band.
He left on good terms and would appear at their shows to support them.
Nothing more has been heard from Richard except that he has been spotted
in the Santa Monica area and has been keeping a low profile…
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Phranc: "Catholic Discipline was never a real 'band' situation.
Everyone was in at least one or two other bands. Some of it was conflict
of interest or conflict of personality, but it was pretty perfect the
way it started and ended." -from the Encyclopedia of Modern Music
Robert Lopez (a.k.a. El Vez): (On forming Catholic Discipline)
"It wasn't that much of an idea to help out Claude as 'Okay, let's do
it that way', but I think we all got on the same level as Claude because
it was his first time to be singer, so it was my first time to play
keyboards, it was Craig's first time to play to play drums…so, in that
sense, it made us all equal in doing that. I like to feel that it was
more Claude's baby because he had the ideas and he was the front man.
I like to think it was his concept. I think Craig and him put it together,
but I like to think it was Claude's Baby." (On the band's music) "Music
wise it was kind of odd because it was just jams that would turn into
songs. We would experiment with ideas…this was the idea of 'Okay, let's
play and see how spooky it sounds…' We'd try anything…Let's try it with
this different beat instead. It was the first band that I was ever in
with more time to (play a song) again and again, try it with these dirges
and try to sound spooky. It had good input by all of us…let's try different
things." -from an unpublished interview conducted by Greg McWhorter
Rick Brodey: (On forming Catholic Discipline) "(It stared
out as) Drunken happenstance of a random moment of time. It's amusing
what seem like good ideas when you are in a 'particular' state of mind.
Power of suggestion mixed with peer pressure." (On the band's music)
"We all had our own influences to be sure, but in the end it was a conglomeration
if anything. As for how we all gyrated within the framework of the band…therein
lies the mysterious beauty of it all. God dropped us into a pot together
in search of a certain concoction. A one of a kind, never to be repeated
delectable treat whose rare ingredients came together to create a disturbing
taste sensation." (On Claude Bessy) "(He was) A passionately mad and
driven soul with the words of a poet and the fortitude of a sailor.
He was the band." -from an unpublished interview conducted by Greg McWhorter
Review of 9-14-79 Hong Kong Café (debut) show:
"Well, I guess if the pope can sing so can Claude…But seriously,
Claude worked each Catholic Discipline song for all the face-twisting
emotion and dead man's stare they were worth. Facial expressions getting
the lyrics across, no over acting. And me being a sucker for good lyrics,
Kickboy covers a pretty fucking full range of subject - situations,
from mundane bus riding (that turns into conflict) to malicious guards
watching prisoners undress. And imagine - you can understand the words
even with that massacring accent.
On the music side, the arrangements provide each band member
with their own undeniable space. Where the keyboards' humming leaves
off, the bass and drum rhythm fills in. And a Love style picking picking
guitar "adds a little good talk" to make it easy to move your feet.
Each section very sparse, working together for a common goal. And again
supplying the audience with a full range of sound - emotions, fast -
slow, disjunct - cohesive. The main area where there's room for improvement
is in their performance. All the kinks are not yet smoothed out. But
this star-studded band; Craig (Bags) drums, Phranc (Nervous Gender)
guitar, Rick (B-People) bass & guitar, and Richard Mead synthesizer
and organ, has only rehearsed eight times and formed two weeks ago.
At the beginning of the night a waiting line formed at
the door. I guess everyone wanted to see the return of joke bands to
Los Angeles, but Catholic Discipline isn't a joking matter." -Cowboy
and Cowgirl, Slash, October 1979
Review of 10-12-79 Hong Kong Café show:
"An interesting thing it is. It's some kind of melodic/minimal/Screamers-like/art-rock
that's embellished with the elaborate lyrics of Mr. Bessy. Lyrics that
I would rather read than listen to. Rick is so very precise on the bass,
and Phranc has turned into a pretty clever guitarist. Claude himself
is still very stiff onstage and his voice hoarse and shouting. Nonetheless,
he does make an interesting figure to watch, and nobody really took
their eyes off him for a minute. Like any other kind of band, the Disciplines
need more experience together and to play in front of wilder crowds.
Should Claude become more loose onstage, we can probably count on some
wild nights at upcoming Catholic Discipline gigs, but so far, not a
bad start. The songs are very good and that's 50% of the whole things
anyway. So be patient." -Ranking Jeffery Lee (Gun Club), Slash, November
Review of 11-8-79 Anti-Club show:
"Opening the show was Catholic Discipline, a local super-group
of sorts that that includes moonlighting members of the Bags, Nervous
Gender, the Zeros and the BPeople. Fronting the quintet is chief editor
of Slash Magazine, Claude Bessy, an elegantly outrageous madman bent
on rubbing noses in fleshy realities.
Bessy is an excellent writer obsessed with the ugly truth,
and the angry morality that jumps off the pages of Slash is with him
when he sings, too. Catholic Discipline has come a long way in a very
short time and the sharp edges and heated delivery of their rigorously
harsh music singe the senses quite effectively." -Kristine McKenna,
Los Angeles Times, 11-10-79
Unfortunately for us Catholic Discipline never stepped foot
inside a recording studio. The only recordings that exist of this band
are live shows with the exception of "Pablo Picasso" live on KPFK, which
is as close to a studio track as they got. The Oct/Nov. 1979 Hong Kong
Café show and the January 19th, 1980 "Pablo Picasso" were both supplied
by Richard Meltzer and were transferred from ¼" reels that are thought
to have originally been recorded by Craig Lee. The January 19th, 1980
Hong Kong Café show was supplied by Philly Bessy and was transferred
from a cassette copy. The Anti-Club show was supplied by a punk tape
trader and was also transferred from a cassette copy. "Dejame Solo"
and "No Soy Hemingway" are courtesy of RAEO. Please excuse any lapses
in audio quality. We picked the best songs from the sources that we
had available to us.
We hope that someday some other recordings may surface,
such as the rehearsal recordings and 'Decline' live outtakes that are
supposed to exist (which we repeatedly tried to coax from Spheeris and
Co.). For now, this CD is the prime document. It took us a year to collect,
organize, and master this CD…I dreamed long ago that someday a Catholic
Discipline record would materialize…I am overwhelmed to have been the
one to organize it's release. Thank you for listening to it.