Novelist Michael Chabon Sang in a Punk Band During the ’80s: Newly Released Audio Gives Proof

the bats chabon

The bio on Michael Chabon’s web­site is one of the most punk rock author bios I’ve ever seen. Clear­ly, the task of writ­ing it was not left to chance or some pub­li­cist.

Where oth­er authors might lim­it them­selves to the strict­ly pro­fes­sion­al, Chabon spices things up with details on his bar mitz­vah, his failed first mar­riage, and the births of his chil­dren.

Where oth­ers’ time­lines grow weighty with evi­dence of increas­ing fame, his reads more like a diary, writ­ten in the third per­son.

Break­ing of Hank Aaron’s pure record of 755 home runs amid the now-com­mon­place Amer­i­can con­geries of hypocrisy, excess, bad faith, racism and lies final­ly proves too much, and the wrong kind, of base­ball sad­ness; turns his back on the game (8/07)

Pen­e­trates to the secret night­time heart of Dis­ney­land (9/11)

Giv­en his zest for per­son­al mile­stones, it’s sur­pris­ing he didn’t see fit to share that he was once the lead singer in a Pitts­burgh punk band. It would have fit nice­ly between the pho­to in which he and nov­el­ist Jon Arm­strong are garbed as strolling Renais­sance Fes­ti­val play­ers and the moment he enters an Oak­land crawl­space to begin work on The Mys­ter­ies of Pitts­burgh.

He might rethink this omis­sion, now that Mind­cure Records has released the four-track demo that is his band, the Bats’ only stu­dio record­ing. Also pre­served on vinyl is the author’s sole live out­ing with the band, a 21st birth­day gig at the Elec­tric Banana, short­ly before he grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh and dis­ap­peared into that crawl­space. The label describes his vocals as “snot­ty.” It’s a com­pli­ment in con­text.

Mean­while in the Pitts­burgh Post Gazette, Chabon recalled the Bats as “a fine lit­tle band, a unique assem­blage of diverse strengths and quirks, anchored by one of the most rock-sol­id drum­mers ever to grace the Pitts­burgh scene, and ham­pered only by the weak­ness of their goof­ball front­man.”

Thanks to Mind­cure Records, Open Cul­ture read­ers can sam­ple the self-effac­ing Pulitzer Prize winner’s vin­tage vocal stylings, above. In the clip away, we have him singing “Jet Away.” Chabon may think he sounds “awful,” but I don’t hear any cause for shame.  You can pick up your own copy of The Bats’ album, ‘Demo 5:26:84,′ with Chabon on vocals, here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith’s Cov­er of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Strips the Song Down to its Heart

Allen Gins­berg & The Clash Per­form the Punk Poem “Cap­i­tal Air,” Live Onstage in Times Square (1981)

The Ramones, a New Punk Band, Play One of Their Very First Shows at CBGB (1974)

Nev­er Mind the Bol­locks, Here’s … John Lydon in a But­ter Com­mer­cial?


Ayun Hal­l­i­day’s bio is also a bit out­side the mold. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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