EVERYTHING - RIP Shane Williams

Written by Michael Snider.

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photo by JKX and KRK


Everything, alas, has to come to an end sometimes. Sometimes you fall into the trap of taking your friends, your scene, and everything else in your life and that surrounds you for granted, but, alas, nothing lasts forever. Shane Williams – writer, bank robber, dealer, scenester, aficionado, record collector, stoner,and all around oldtime L.A. character, a survivor from a now lost decadent and freewheeling L.A.  , a lost Hollywood of rock and roll dive bars, dames, dope, and trouble where literally anything could happen at any time, the ultimate rock and roll fan who started hanging on the old Sunset Strip of the hippie days before he could get into any of the clubs, and who made the scene at Rodney’s English Disco in the ’70s, the clubs of many types in the endearingly seedy Hollywood of the ‘80s, who kept his enthusiasm through the ‘90s and into the 21st century, and who knew more about music than just about anyone I ever met – saw his life come to an end on June 9, 2011, in a Porsche  - just as James Dean (one of the many influences of a man who had a sheer effortless natural style) had his life end in a Porsche – due to some asshole who ran a red light going 70 MPH. I first heard about Shane’s accident from Bob Lee, another longtime friend and veteran of the ‘80s Hollywood underground rock scene of the Raji’s/Shamrock/Gaslight variety. As it was, it turned out that he died the next morning at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills.

I first met Shane through Eddie Flowers, another veteran of the fanzine wars who would later start a band called Crawlspace and who himself taught me much of my musical knowledge. Shane and I hit it off pretty well. Both of us had in common a great love of Radio Birdman, who at the time were not that widely known in the US except for those of us who frequented bargain bins and picked up cut out used copies of “Radios Appear” for 99 cents, and who were for those fortunate few of us on this side of the Pacific one of the greatest, most underrated bands to come out of the early punk era. Shane having been a great deal older than me also had all sorts of stories of the old days. He turned me on to plenty of great music – all the Birdman spinoffs like the New Christs and Hitmen, other favorite bands of his like the Godfathers, all the way up to more recent times with bands like Prima Donna and Angus Khan. Listing all the bands Shane turned me on to would be far too long of a list. He loved rock and roll – its entire history – and was as amazing of a fan as you’ll ever find, of so many different things. Other passions of his included science fiction and crime fiction – as with rock he turned me on to many of his faves in the crime fiction field ; I remember making a trip to the Mitchell Brothers bookstore in Pasadena (the crime fiction bookstore, not the porn store) which was run by an ex-cop, and we made some jokes about some of the books like “Narcs: America’s Heroes”, as well as spotting great stuff like Westlake’s Richard Stark series. Unfortunately, Shane had some bad habits, which due to the extremely misguided and counterproductive policies of the US government forced him to support by doing some things that got him put away as an involuntary guest of the state of California and the US federal government for quite awhile. While during much of that time we kept up a dialogue via the mails, he was unfortunately separated from the things he loved most during that period. Although even behind bars he was trying to do what he could – when he was locked up in Leavenworth he got the Dream Syndicate and the Bangles to play there, for example, and he wrote some songs. I tried to put a band together with him several years ago but it never came together due to not being able to find a drummer – the eternal L.A. curse.

I was at Shane’s apartment in East Hollywood for the last time 6 weeks ago, where we were hanging out and talking music, politics, history, books, you-name-it.  He definitely had his opinions and usually had very good reasons for having them. Admittedly, it took me years to catch up with his natural cynicism about politics, but in the end he was pretty much right. He embodied the sensibilities of that lost L.A. which loved to party but was also able to be intellectual, a sensibility that dated back to the ‘60s which disappeared as the city irreversibly changed and lost its memory. The last time I saw him was at a Memorial Day party in West L.A. He was as laid back, naturally cool, and as great of a raconteur as ever. After leaving behind being  a political prisoner for a victimless crime for the very last time, he could always be found at the Redwood in downtown L.A. – the last L.A. club that feels like an old school L.A. club (minus the smoke, thanks to prissy nanny-state laws). I felt like anytime there was a band playing at the Redwood he’d be there along with some of the other oldtimers, just like he was always in the Raji’s kitchen years before. His death leaves a massive hole in the soul of Los Angeles. For myself and many others, it just is not the same city without him.

To people outside L.A. Shane was known for his writings for fanzines, especially FLIPSIDE – he called himself “Shane Flipside” because of his long association with the zine over a period of many years encompassing most of its existence. He also wrote for other zines, the number of which is too great to list. He didn’t always make the right choices in his life (it is a shame he didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities he had over the years). But he had integrity, style, and personality, and was a zealous lover of sex, drugs, rock and roll, books, and, as he put it, “Hollywood, a state of mind”.

Rest in peace Brother Shane.

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