By Jeff Smith

The Hickoids

It’s hard not to bitch about how easy young bands have it these days; cheap quality gear for stage and recording, instantaneous communication and cultural acceptance on a large scale that only 25 or 30 years ago seemed unimaginable. So, in some respects it feels like the events I’m about to describe took place at the beginning of the 20th Century rather than a decade from the end.
The Hickoids began recording our second album for the Toxic Shock label sometime in 1988 with the legendary SST/ Black Flag producer Spot. Long story short, the band felt determined to establish a new identity and sound that would dust the aura of Jukebox that held thick over the band despite his departure from the band a couple of years earlier under less than amicable circumstances. We made our first album in 1985 with Stuart Sullivan at Austin ’s Lone Star Studios. It was Sullivan’s first album project in a career that has spanned three decades and seen him work with everyone from Sublime to Willie Nelson. That being said, it was both a groundbreaking and highly flawed effort. (I recommend you check out Sullivan’s own Wikipedia entry, which I won’t comment on here.)
Our pre-production efforts amounted to two or more band members sitting around Richard Hays’ porch or living room while drinking, smoking and/or tripping and banging on an un-tuned guitar and whatever else was available. The songs themselves were cultivated over a fairly long period of time and were hyper self-reflexive in nature, with the titles and phrases being drawn from our misadventures over the previous couple of years and tours. Despite the fantastic-seeming allegory, they were an accurate depiction of our sorry, hand to mouth existence. Beyond that, we might have actually rehearsed two times before recording.
The actual recording went incredibly well, with the whole project requiring only about 20 hours of studio time from set up to finished mix. I give props to Spot here…it was the least wasteful thing we did the entire decade. It sonically captures just about everything we were capable of at the time (when not blacked out) and definitely marks a departure from the Jukebox-era.
After what seemed like an interminable wait of 10 months or a year the record was finally released as “Waltz-A-Cross-Dress-Texas,” complete with Willie Nelson in drag cartoon on the cover. Willie, upon being informed of the album art, queried with his trademark detached stoicism “Well, how do I look?” My own Mother, after reading about the release in the San Antonio daily paper quipped, “It sounds to me like you’re trying to get killed.” The fun and games were just beginning.
An $800 van was bought (later known, almost euphemistically, as “the Bad Van”), a three month tour was arranged, and all the appropriate lies and wishful half-truths were told to girlfriends, erstwhile bosses, black marketers, landlords and roommates. And to sweeten the deal our friends and protégés from Dallas , the Loco Gringos, would be joining us for the first month of the tour which they had prophetically dubbed “the Fiasco Magnifico.” (Traveling in their vehicle, later known realistically as “the Good Van.”)
Following an extraordinarily hard night of partying with friends from the bands Catbutt & L7, I was awoken about 6pm by my band mates who’d come to fetch me and make our way to the tour’s first show in Dallas. Still punch drunk, and against the better judgment and wishes of elder Hickoids Davy and Richard I refused to pack anything and left town with only the clothes on my back.

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