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Tim Yohannan: Punk Rock Guru and Anti-Hero
I took this Polaroid photo when Tim and Jeff brought a bunch of the Fresno punk bands up to Berkeley to be interviewed and to play our tapes on the maximumrocknroll
radio show in 1982. He did a lot of stuff like this, allowing us bands from the boondocks to make connections and get gigs we otherwise would never have gotten. I never hear of
anyone in a similar position of power (possessor of prime time radio airtime) just giving it away to unknown bands. And we never had any notion or ability to reciprocate with
anything resembling payola. In fact, I believe Tim's intent was, in part, to give away airtime without payola to illustrate the corruption of the payola system. He was so
interesting. I always considered him the most successful and talented person I knew.
One night in front of Gilman street, I stood there in amazement as he angrily challenged several thugs. Shouting them down, they slowly retreated down the street. His
gutsiness was something to behold especially considering he was such a short guy.
And one more thing: After taking this picture I found out how Tim was so adamantly against having his picture taken. He could put the point on the tip of the spear at times.
I'll never forget his hospitality to my band, Capitol Punishment, letting us use his house in San Francisco like a hotel. It was a lot of fun for us to stay there in the basement/record room on Clipper street in Noe Valley. He had such an unusual emotional/psychological connection to
music, almost religious, like. I could tell when he found out I had been religious in my past he seemed to like that.
I made a tape called "Tim and The Gang" wherein I spliced together some of the talking in between the songs from the Maximum Rocknroll radio show. A mishmash
of nonsensical and unrelated comments to show some of the confusion that went on sometimes on the show. I did it to get a laugh and poke a little fun at Tim. I
gave a copy of the tape to him. He listened and though he didn't condemn it he didn't seem pleased with it. He had plenty of opportunity to tell me don't do this,
instead he just said nothing. I took that as a reluctant approval.
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In his coolest of the cool basement, with the coolest giant posters of punk rock stars on the walls and thousdands of LPs, 10-inchers, 7-inchers, boxed sets, Cracks,
Chunks, Nuggets, 60s punk, Rockabilly, Beatles (Only up to SGT. Pepper. He was very strict about these littles rules of rocknroll). And freakin' hundreds of band
demo/live, homemade cassettes. It was like Disneyland for a punk record collector like myself. Underneath the raised floor there were giant garbage bags full of
thousands of photos of small-time punk rock bands from all over the world and over many years.
I bought a couple of his records at a Gilman street record swap with the green tape on it. One was a British pressing 7-inch of the DKS, "California Uber Alles" with photos Tim
found of the DKs in magazines, cut out and pasted on the cover with Decopauge. His logic was, he already had the original one, why have the Euro pressing, too.
I remember him telling me why a band's first album was always so much better than their
second release: The debut represented 2 years of work and the follow up usually
represented 6 months of work.
One time at one of those Gilman Record swaps, he was selling the Euro version
of my band's album. It hurt a litlle but I figured he could do what the hell he wanted with it once I gave it to him. It was our second release, you know, the one we spent only 6 months on.
Tim helped me put together a mixtape one time of 1950's artists who straddled both
rocknroll and rhythm and blues. I was interested in Ray Charles at the time who had hits
both in R&B and Country. The one artist he recommended to me that straddled Rock and
R&B was Lonnie Mack. That night I begged him to drink whiskey with me, but he refused.
Instead, he helped me put together that mixtape.
When Capitol Punishment was in decline, in 1990, he responded with kindness when I asked him to give us an interview. Then, almost as a joke, off the top of my head I asked, "Can you put us on the front cover?" He thought for a moment and said, "Yes". Three months later, there we were on the front cover of Maximumrocknroll. Never in a million years with another person! There were others closer to him than I, but none whom he was kinder to.
It was a pleasure to know him and to know so clearly how he stood on certain issues.
And, if a lot of other people felt the same way, it gave me a feeling of being part of a
grass-roots movement. But, it was also kind of an anti-movement, too because he was so
self-deprecating, (no photos) so anti-commercial, (refused to accept ads from Epitaph
because they had a distro deal with EMI for Japan), and probably some other quirks I
didn't know about. But, I think when he died in '98, for me, punk rock died.