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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