“There’s a time for drugs and a time to be sane”: The Butthole Surfers on “The Scott & Gary Show”

By on September 27, 2017

In October of 1984, experimental psychedelic Texas rock band Butthole Surfers dropped acid before they appeared on The Scott & Gary Show,” a zany indie-punk NYC-based public access TV show.

Check out the full Butthole Surfers episode — and Gibby Haynes’ spectacular polka-dotted boxers — over on Night Flight Plus, and below you can read Scott Lewis’s memories about the taping.

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Scott Lewis:

I was real excited to get the Buttholes on The Scott & Gary Show.” I also took it as a challenge to be able to coordinate getting touring bands on the show.

Remember, this was the prehistoric cell phone internet days. It was the time of phone calls and letter writin’. I was always searching out the wildest sounds and got the Surfers EP that came out on Alternative Tentacles and thought it was really savage and intense.

It’s the record with “The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave.” Sample lyrics: There’s a time to shit and a time for God/The last shit that I took was pretty fuckin’ odd!/There’s a time for drugs and a time to be sane/Jimi Hendrix makes love to Marilyn’s remains!

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Of all the episodes, this is the one that people have had — and continue to have — the biggest reaction to getting their heads around it. We were told that some TV stations refused to air it.

Anyhow, I’d contacted Tentacles and got a postcard back saying, “Sure, put them on.” Then there was a series of phone calls, which was a little tricky as they were on the road.

Read more from Scott Lewis’s memories about the Butthole Surfers on “The Scott & Gary Show” below.

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Gary and I always prided ourselves on getting really good audio of the bands, much better than network TV shows which, for the most part back then, the sound was thin with vocals way out in front.

So, for almost all the episodes we used experienced sound folks (many of them also musicians) doing the audio set-up and mixing. I would give them cassettes of the band’s music in advance so that they’d be familiar and then go over with them on their sound.

Well, for the Butthole Surfers, I had a great young guy named Scott Foster doing the audio. Scott was an intern for me when I was working at the WNET (PBS) tape library.

The funny part is that Scott had studied classical guitar at the Berklee College of Music! He’d never heard anything like the Buttholes –- actually, no one had! Scott really liked the music, got where they were coming from, and I think he did a fantastic job.

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Here you had two pounding drummers, bass, squealing guitar, singing through a megaphone, etc. in a tiny TV studio and the guy mixing it was a trained classical musician!

Scott introduced himself to the band and told them how much he like their music, so there was a cool connection there.

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Another thing I remember is that the Buttholes were staying with a friend in Brooklyn who came to the show.

A few minutes into setting up, a piece of their equipment was not working (I think it was a monitor), so they said they have to go back to Brooklyn to get a replacement.

I said “We tape in 45 minutes – there is no time to get to Brooklyn and back. We only have the studio booked for 2 hours.” They said, “Don’t worry, we will make it back in time.”

Now, we were on 23rd Street in NYC, and they wanted to get to Brooklyn, pick up the equipment and get back in 45 minutes -– that is impossible.

But you know what? They did it! I am afraid to know how! I also seem to remember their car was hand-painted with weird symbols , so maybe that helped.

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Other stuff: I thought it was interesting that Gibby was an accountant (!) and that his father was involved in radio/TV and I think he guest-hosted “American Bandstand” or something like that. Gibby seemed very proud of his former occupation. Someone said the bass player’s dad played for the Dallas Cowboys but I did not have a chance to follow-up on that.

People have asked me if I was worried that chaos was going to break out, but I said, no, in their weird way they were pretty nice. Gibby seemed a bit guarded, but he was cool and did a great performance. The rest of the band was into doing their thing. I thought they sounded amazing.

This was also the first band we had on that I had never seen live before. I kinda liked that — made it more exciting. I wanted the show to be spontaneous.

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So, while the show was taping, I was getting really excited in my head. I knew this was going to make great outrageous TV and felt this is was going to really put us out there, which it did both positively and negatively.

On the positive side, it heightened our reputation where you could see cutting-edge talent. When you start off having artists like Ben Vaughn, the Beastie Boys, ½ Japanese, Buttholes, etc., other bands were keen to be on. They knew that they could do their thing and there were no limitations.

The negative: the same reasons — not everyone at the stations, and many viewers, did not agree that this was a positive.

And boy did we get dirty looks and a lot of grief from the guys who ran the studio!

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Thanks, Scott!

Read even more here about the Butthole Surfers on The Scott & Gary Show,” and watch the full 30-minute episode over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.