Bonus Recording of October 1993: Out to Hunch
Norton Records (no catalog # whatso-a-ever) LP, no CD. No producer, no engineer, no studio, no stereo, no mikes that weren't carbon police dispatcher models, no other people at all in fact—just Hasil Adkins, vocals and guitars and one-man drums and some weird rhythmic screeching that may or may not be LP surface noise. TT: infinite, as I can't stop hearing it in my head hours after I raised the needle off it.
To order, send $10 to Norton Records, Box 646, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10003. If you don't, you shall burn in hellfire eternal. Hasil Adkins Fan Club; Hasil Adkins Headquarters.
This is my last record review for Stereophile. I'll still cover hi-fi gear for the mag, but I cannot continue in my capacity as a music reviewer because I have just witnessed the Holy Grail of music, the Perfect Record, the Final and Total Human Statement that sums up god and devil and good and evil and woman and man and history and prophesy and the entire quest for meaning which has now, finally, been revealed by the True Messiah: Hasil Adkins.
Jesus Christ is now exposed as simply a charismatic rabbi who got too big too fast for the state to tolerate. Elvis was close, but now he too is exposed as an also-ran. In fact, I hate Elvis Presley's music now, and can't fathom how I could've ever liked that creampuff shit. Hendrix is now exposed as a pawn of Cointelpro and as just another pretender tolerated by the state until he became too erratic to control. That stroke-riddled Hasidic chieftain in NYC whose followers claim he's the Messiah is only blaspheming Hasil with his arrogance, and shall burn in hellfire eternal with the rest of you who don't send $10 to Norton Records and buy this record.
Out to Hunch is not merely the greatest piece of music I have ever heard, it is now the only piece of music I've ever heard; its message and implications are so powerful that all else is wiped from my consciousness as if Hasil Adkins was the only one in the history of the planet who ever uttered a single musical sound—which is, naturally, as it should be.
I bought Out to Hunch after I took the $7.99 LP of Nirvana's Incesticide up to the register at Sound Exchange here in Austin and the guy told me that credit-card purchases have to be $15 or more. So I went back over to the wall o' LPs and looked for something interesting to get past the minimum charge, and that's when I spied this cheezy highway-pylon-orange LP cover with blue letters that seemed to jiggle like springs if I blinked my eyes. On the cover were three grainy B&W photos of Hasil Adkins, a young white kid from the '50s, a real rockabilly hepcat, posing with handfuls of 45s in front of a barn, by his hot rod, and in his Southern white-trash bedroom with the flowered bedsheets hung on the walls to cover the water stains on the torn wallpaper and the tiny all-in-one record changer—only big enough to play 45s, of course—with the single knob marked "LOUDER, BOY." At $7.69 the price was right, so I grabbed it off the wall and took it up to the register.
After I got home, I flipped the LP over and looked at the back cover. There were four more grainy photos of Hasil Adkins, posing with his acoustic guitar with the original pickguard replaced by a strategic group of cut-out 45s glued to the instrument's face. The kid in the photos was obviously one of the thousands of Southern white boys in the 1950s swept up by the Rockabilly Revolution who weren't as hot as Elvis and Jerry Lee but were good enough to represent them locally at dances, parties, and as the uncircumcised Next-Best-Thang in back seats and high-school football fields from Mobile to Ferriday.
But God, man, those eyes. I'd never seen such sunken, crazy, menacing, empty, ignorant, all-knowing backwoods cracker psycho eyes in my entire life, and the kid looked 15 at the most. Hasil Adkins had the jutting cheekbones and horsey face of a truly inbred piece of worthless human flotsam, and it looked like he not only knew it but had found a kind of personal release from that realization. I couldn't put the record down.
I stared at those photos for a long time until it occurred to me that, having bought the record, I might as well give it a listen. And ten hours later, after five back-to-back full-length plays and six hours of trying to come to terms with what I'd just heard but not quite believed, I'm sitting here listening to it again at full blast with my new Dell notebook on my thighs as I two-finger my last Stereophile record review.
While recognizing that I am unable to fully convey just what Hasil Adkins's music sounds like, I will try to furnish some factual details in order to get the basic gist of Out to Hunch across to you. Hasil Adkins the True Messiah was a lone-nut teen rockabilly rebel in the West Virginee hills who fully absorbed Elvis's Sun Records 45s and every other scratchy-necked prickly-weed sugar-ant flat-headed essence of the time and region and made the greatest music that has ever been, right in his own bedroom, all alone, with an acoustic guitar, a stripped-down drumkit, and a mono tape machine. Out to Hunch is the first US anthology of these sides cut between 1955 and 1965, and the songs are all pure rockabilly, revealing that the music was only ever properly played by just one person, that person being Hasil Adkins.
But a boy with the eyes of a serial killer doesn't sing songs about hot rods, blue suede shoes, and milk-cow blues boogies. Holed up in his dirty bedroom with the glowing tape machine and the 45s glued to his guitar, Hasil Adkins sang songs about cutting young girls' heads off and hanging them on his wall as trophies. In "No More Hot Dogs," Hasil sings about how his baby shouldn't eat anything that day because he's going to cut off her head and hang it on his wall, and then she won't be eating no more hot dogs. In "We Got A Date," Hasil announces in a deep, menacing voice made more so by the shattering distortion of the primitive recording, "Uh, hello, baby...uh, we got a date...uh, I got a date to, uh...cut your head, uh, OFF," then some truly horrifying laughter and assorted glottal sounds, then: "Uh, baby I know you'll, uh...be over at eight, ahahaha...[loud clearing of throat]...'cause, uh...I'm gonna cut your head off about, uh...half past eight, AHAHAHA HAHAHAHA!!," followed by Hasil screaming and imitating the sound of a chainsaw.
Unlike every other rock'n'roll singer, Hasil Adkins wasn't kidding around. This is absolute, out-and-out, true-blue dementia. I've got a pretty wild imagination, and I couldn't fake stuff this disturbing if my life depended on it. This is the American Dream gone horribly awry: a sunken-eyed psychopathic teen rockabilly cat who sings songs about decapitating young girls and who refers to his baby as "a dyin' can of commodity meat."
This is the greatest record I've ever heard.
So you can see why writing about, or even listening to, any other music after this would only be futile; once you've drunk God's own titmilk, anything short of that has got to be a letdown. I had some really hot stuff in the on-deck circle, too—Rhino's new blues series, some Jelly Roll Morton reissues, the MasterSound Kind of Blue—but those will have to be covered by the rest of Stereophile's crack roster of music reviewers. After Out to Hunch, other music doesn't really matter all that much to me anymore, and life's too short to waste on pap like Elvis and Miles and Muddy when I could be listening to Hasil Adkins singing "We Got A Date." So I won't.
See you at eight.—Corey Greenberg