The Super Bowl halftime show got close to punk with the once-revolutionary Red Hot Chili Peppers. The founder of local Sex Pistols salute Rotten Johnnies maintains that all threatening rock eventually becomes safe.
“If enough time passes, the edge wears off anything,” says singer Dan Neighbors. “In 1964, parents didn’t want their daughters to go to Rolling Stones shows. Now Mick Jagger is knighted. Anarchy becomes gentrified.”
Neighbors was in an all-original, straight-ahead rock project called Shaft, which played at the Casbah and at now-closed clubs such as Bodie’s, Velvet, and the Spirit during their 1990–’95 life-span. “We opened for the Dragons many times. Rocket From the Crypt and Lucy’s Fur Coat were hot then.”
But he was different from his Shaft bandmates. “They were waiting on tables just so they could quit at any time and go on tour. I was just in it for fun. I never wanted to make a career of it.”
Neighbors, 43, started teaching at Granite Hills High School while still in Shaft. He’s still there.
But he’s also playing again, launching the Rotten Johnnies last year with three Guitar Center employees.
“We all grew up loving punk, even though we are of wildly different ages.” Guitarist Zippy Zimmerman is 50, bassist Tony Hayse is 28, and drummer Jerrica Ojeda is 25.
Don’t expect any “filth and fury”/safety-pin costume shtick.
“We think it’s possible to have the energy and excitement of punk without dressing up,” Neighbors told the Reader. “We take the music part very seriously. But, no, we don’t spit on people and we don’t head-butt puppies.”
Neighbors says he’s never heard of another Sex Pistols salute. “The Sex Pistols aren’t usually a band that pops to mind when people think of obvious choices for tribute bands. We thought this could be our niche. Along with the Ramones, they started the whole punk movement. We actually played with local Ramones band Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! a couple months ago. They were great. Those guys are a full tribute with wigs, leather jackets, sunglasses.”
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I asked Neighbors what the late Joey Ramone or Johnny Rotten might say about their local imitators.
“Joey would appreciate Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! because they are spot-on and he was such a mellow guy. Johnny would probably call us a bunch of bloody wankers because he calls everybody that. But I would have to say he’d have to give us a grudging nod for our musicianship.”