For all the people with whom I played music when I was younger.
And for my parents, for putting up with me and with all the people with whom I played music when I was younger.
What follows are transcripts of the interviews I conducted with the Scar Boys over a period of five weeks—stretching from early February to late March 1989—while the band was in the studio recording the follow-up to their debut album, Minus One. Though this material has been edited and rearranged to make the story flow, all of the words attributed to members of the band are true and accurate.
Here, then, are the Scar Boys, in their own words. I hope you find their story as fascinating as I did.
Joanne Cryder New York City, September 14, 1989
JULY TO AUGUST 1986
We’re a rock group. We’re noisy, rowdy, sensational, and weird.
What defines you?
You mean aside from my face?
I guess I’d say that I’m not good at asking people for help.
How the hell should I know? What defines you?
How much do you know about Johnny McKenna? He was the first singer in the Scar Boys. He, Richie, and I started the band together in the eighth grade. The whole thing was mostly Johnny’s idea.
I didn’t join the band until a year or two later. Some kid from their high school had been playing bass, but he quit.
At my first rehearsal, I remember that all three guys—Johnny, Harry, and Richie—were looking at me like I was from Mars, or maybe Venus. But the person who caught my eye most was Harry.
Harry had been struck by lightning as a kid, and he has all kinds of scars on his face, though they’re not nearly as bad as he thinks. The lightning did a lot more damage inside than outside. Not like damage to his internal organs and stuff, but damage to his soul. Everything and everyone Harry sees in the world, he sees through the prism of a lightning bolt. All of us, all of this, lit up so bright that it gets distorted. He can’t stand the light, so he hides in the darkness.
I wasn’t struck by lightning. I was tied to a tree and the tree was struck by lightning. My injuries are the result of the severe burns I received when the tree caught fire. I was kind of like a marshmallow on a stick that gets too close to the flames.
Did Chey say I was struck by lightning?
You have to take Chey with a grain of salt. She likes to exaggerate the details of a story to make it better.
About a year after I joined the Scar Boys, Johnny and I started dating. He was after me from almost the first day. I kept saying no, that it would be bad for the band, but he kind of wore me down. Johnny was like that. He wouldn’t stop until he got what he wanted. He had a kind of take-no-prisoners attitude, you know? I think that’s what made me fall in love with him.
When we were on our first tour, the summer after we’d graduated high school, before there were tour buses and roadies, when it was just the four of us in the van, Johnny and I got into a big fight. It’d been bubbling under the surface for months. For me, the fight was about how I was Johnny’s lackey, about how he was an emotional bully and I was an emotional cripple; it was even about our musical differences. But mostly it was about how I was in love with Cheyenne and how I hated that she was with him and not me. Johnny and I never said any of these things out loud; when you’re close like we were at the time, all that unspoken stuff is just there in the room with you.
The fight got bad enough that I hit Johnny in the face. It was the first and only time in my life I ever hit another human being. The world had made me its personal punching bag for so long that I guess I finally lost it and punched back.
After I hit him, Johnny left the tour and went home, which, if you ask me, was a complete overreaction. We decided to continue on as a three-piece and even played one gig with me as the singer—it was this giant keg party in Georgia. It was probably the best night of my life. With Johnny gone and with that great show under our belts, I really thought it was the start of something special.
The next day was when we found out about Johnny’s accident. There was nothing to do but give up the tour and go home.
You want to know what guilt is? Try punching—wait, strike that—try slapping your best friend in the face, and then watch as a chain of events unfolds that ends with him almost dying. I more or less shut down after that.