Friday, February 3, 2012

Make the Leaders Fight

Bands are often less remembered for their music than they are for everything else—be it onstage antics, violence, or simply the musicians themselves. From what I can tell, Special Forces are no exception. Most people would probably just write them off as another generic ‘80s hardcore band, but there is certainly more to them than just that. Special Forces issued their first demo in 1983 and continued as something of a Bay Area punk farm team for nearly ten years. The various local punk luminaries who have done tours of duty with Special Forces are too many to name, but the main cog was always a character by the name of Orlando Xavier. Affectionately known to most as Ox, Orlando was one of the first punks hanging out on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue back in the early ‘80s. Ever since then, he has been quite the visible fixture in the Bay Area punk scene, loudly holding court at the bar, working security at Gilman in the early ‘90s, or scaring shoplifters at Amoeba Records. Forget about Gimme Something Better; you could probably fill a book with bizarre Orlando stories alone. Not a man you would want to meet in a dark alley. Bet on that.

Local bands rule, right? Special Forces would have been a band that provided a soundtrack to many moments of your punk rock youth. “In South Africa” would have been stuck in your head while on a half-sheet of acid at the anti-apartheid protest. You would have gotten drunk in the alley and slam-danced your little heart out in some dingy warehouse as they played. Their patches would adorn your jacket. You ain’t gotta lie to kick it. We all know this, so don’t front. Try to keep all of this in mind when you listen to songs like “Death on Holiday, “Cockrocker,” “Make the Leaders Fight” (always my favorite), “Mulemeat Blues,” or “Berkeley Hardcore.” Perhaps then you will see why Special Forces is a name that brings a smile to the faces of older East Bay punks when brought up. They also had a song called “Generic Thrash,” so at least they knew what you thought of them the whole time.

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