The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories
By NOFX with Jeff Alulis
[Da Capo Press]
Although NOFX is a successful and kinda/sorta, uh, “famous” act usually classified as pop punk, the 33-year-old band actually has its roots in hardcore. What made NOFX so successful is that the studiedly careerist band purposely streamlined its sound in an overtly commercial way – and that they were conveniently situated just so along the punk/hardcore/pop punk continuum betwixt Bad Religion and Nirvana (and then Green Day and then Blink 182), a sweet spot if ever there were one. Still, the band started in 1983, when MaximumRocknroll ruled the hardcore world. And NOFX certainly paid its dues for several years of profitless duties (and doodies) in the crustiest, most foul-smelling punk alleyways.
What’s funny (as in funny-odd) is that while NOFX has mostly retained its punk cred, even with those leftie purists at MaximumRocknroll, the band members themselves seem to have a lot more in common with LA glam-rockers Poison and Motley Crue than they do with Crass or (ahem) MDC. There are certainly parallels. Poison and Motley Crue amalgamated a rough-and-ready sound (’80s metal) with pop to reap big sales; whereas NOFX amalgamated a rough-and-ready sound (hardcore punk) with pop to reap big sales. And all three bands partied like motherfuckers. What’s funny (as in funny ha-ha) is that, well, NOFX’s story is just fucking funny – and gross and overblown and sophomoric and puerile in a decidedly prefab way that is so purposely stoopid it’s almost genius, a pure distillation of the showbiz ethos of Hollywood, California, USA. And that’s not exactly “punk,” or is it?
The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories is an oral history of NOFX told from the perspective of all of its members – then and now. Much like Motley Crue’s The Dirt, The Hepatitis Bathtub is a compendium of sometimes conflicting stories that have probably been told by its various narrators so many times already that their exaggeration has become, uh, “truth.” The comparison and contrast among accounts is something that makes the book all the more compelling and rings of, ahem, authenticity – whatever that is.
Among The Hepatitis Bathtub’s umpteen juxtapositions is singer/bassist “Fat” Mike Burkett’s view of his drug excesses (“I agreed to adjust the chemistry experiment by cutting my pre-show Valium dosage in half, balancing my food/booze intake, and watering down my drinks a bit [before shows]”) versus drummer Erik “Smelly” Sandin’s (“I still think he [Fat Mike] has some issues with substance abuse that need to be fully resolved and that may cause serious problems for him down the line”).
Like all of NOFX’s albums, The Hepatitis Bathtub is a high-gloss, professionally rendered affair. The book is well written, well edited, and structured in a way to maximize what’s most important – its entertainment value. In over 350 action-packed pages, readers will thrill to tales of groupies, crabs, scabies, punk rock violence, interactions with famous and/or infamous celebrities and quasi-celebrities, farting, defecating, “ass-related pranks,” cross-dressing, S&M, pill-popping, shooting up, waaaay excessive drinking, coke-snorting, and the famous hepatitis bathtub itself. And then there’s the matter of drinking piss – which begins and ends the book. Curiously, there’s an underlying (albeit vague) sense of family and morality that (again vaguely) underscores all of the aforementioned debaucheries. You’ll just have to read it yourself to figure that one out.