Remembering John Stabb of Government Issue

John Stabb  Photo by Laurie Rollins Anderson,  taken at History Repeated’s last show on December 26

John Stabb Photo by Laurie Rollins Anderson, taken at History Repeated’s last show on December 26

Written by Andy Nystrom. Originally posted on There’s Something Hard in There.

John Stabb [has] passed away after a battle with stomach cancer. We lost one of the most unique, quirky, honest and dynamic hardcore singers of our time. He was 54.

It was an honor to watch John perform with Government Issue in 1983… I was mesmerized as he slithered across the stage with duct tape wrapped around parts of his body. A fantastic voice and persona. A few years ago, he shared some insightful and humorous answers in an interview for our blog. What a treat. We all joked with John over on the Daghouse board about a funny typo in the story.  (Some of the words mysteriously changed to “moody moo,” which I quickly corrected.)

Here’s some excerpts from the blog story, dated Dec. 27, 2012:

**Who influenced you as a singer and energetic frontman? What about the clothes– where did your fashion sense come from? What were some of your more memorable outfits?

Well, it would all depend upon what time frame or recording for me. “Legless Bull” was me being Jello Jr. because I worshipped at the altar of Dead Kennedys.

“Boycott Stabb” was my infatuation with all thing Jack Grisham (TSOL) and that went for my thrift-shop chic. I’m proud to be the only “Clown Prince of WDC Punk” in the early ’80s when most of my punk-band friends were just sporting your basic T-shirt and jeans. I also dug Nick Cave’s hairstyle so that’s when the “Cave-wave” kicked in. I loved The Birthday Party like nobody’s business!

I was still confusing the punk-rock troops by “Give Us Stabb or Give Us Death” being a Mock-star with my cheesy ’80s metal outfits. I thought I was looking like Stephen Pearcy (RATT) with all my make-up, bad perm and fringy wardrobe but ended up resembling some silly “Rocky Horror” (ugh!) fan. Or for any of you readers from the mid-’70s … Mac Davis-ha!

And I think everyone who listened to “You” could tell I was heavily influenced by Dave Vanian. I even wanted G.I. to start sounding like The Damned. I certainly can hear it vocally and musically on that record, as well as the “S/T” one.

Too many memorable outfits to name but the gem I wore opening up for The Misfits was an electric neon-green (in the spotlight it could sear the human eye!) tuxedo with tails over a large white with red polka-dotted dress shirt. I think that one left a great impression upon Danzig and his Groovie Ghoulies thinking I looked like a fucking clown. I succeeded in irritating a few folks and entertaining the rest that evening. I was very proud of myself that night!

**Your lyrics dripped with sarcasm, but were also serious and profound — Did writing lyrics help you deal with life experiences, good or bad?

Yeah, I can really be one hell of a sarcastic mofo, but I did pour my heart out on a page/studio/stage by the time “Joyride” was written. I’ve even heard that some of my lyrics for songs like “Understand” were straight out of the letters of a suicide note. I was dealing with some hardcore depression/fatigue during the writing for that one.

Music has always been an emotional outlet and therapy session for me. If I didn’t have that kind of primal scream back then, I’d be in jail or a mental facility somewhere. People have told me that G.I. helped them get through some difficult times back in school and all but punk rock kept me alive and kicking. Not that I’m completely on top of everything now, but I was a real mixed-up piece of work in the ’80s. These days I find I need a little medication to curb some of the depression, anger and focus on things. I do the best I can in this life. And on that positive, uplifting note … next question?

**You played a ton of shows in the U.S. and Europe — where were some of the memorable ones?

A couple particular gigs were as follows: Scherpueheuvel, Belgium, G.I. played this big hall where the punk kids dressed up in swimming gear (swimming caps, speedos, googles) to dive off the huge PA stacks into the crowd! It was some kind of wacky but I’ve never seen anything like it … ever! Nobody got hurt and it was all so silly but I doubt this would go over at a Fugazi gig.

Another was in Leutkirch, Germany. It was Halloween so we decided to get into the spirit and dress up as something completely different. Unbeknownst to us foolish Americans, folks in Germany didn’t celebrate our little tradition. J. dressed up as Mike Muir (in full Cholo-gang look), Tom borrowed my groovy Nehru jacket to be Syd Barret, I went for the Nick Cave-pale junkie (with magic marker heroin holes on my arms!) thing and Pete was a Grape. A grape you ask? Pete told us how (as a wee lad) he told his parents he wanted to be a Grape for Halloween so they dressed him up in his bathing suit and his Mom’s headband. Then they told me he was a Grape so when Pete went to people’s doors trick or treating (with parents behind him!) the confused homeowner would ask, “And what are you for Halloween?” Pete answered enthusiastically “I’m a Grape!” Apparently everyone got a good laugh and our future little drummer boy knew nothing of looking like a surfer. Anyhoo, we had a blast doing our thing but didn’t find out till afterwards from our guide from Amsterdam about the “not celebrating Halloween” deal. Apparently the crowd thought we were rockstars and always dressed like this.

**What would you most like G.I. to be remembered for?

Hopefully we’ll never become as famous and worshipped like some of my peers bands: Minor Threat, Black Flag, etc. I’m happy just having a cult following. And never tossing my cookies all over a stage like my friends, Lady Justin and Ga-Ga Beaver.
**Does Supertramp still give you a cramp? Do you appreciate a little “Breakfast in America” in your older years?

You bet your bippy! And I still don’t wanna go to camp-ha! 

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8 Responses to Remembering John Stabb of Government Issue

  1. Hi, would you mind giving me a photo credit? It’s what I do. Laurie Rollins Anderson. The pic was taken at History Repeated’s last show on December 26 and originally posted here: https://www.facebook.com/lauriera/posts/10153724424191327:7

  2. Lia Serbyn says:

    That was a great show and I thank God I went.

  3. pedalboardhotmailcom says:

    History Repeated had one more show after 12/26/15… the one at Comet Ping Pong 1/19/16 where Stabb announced to me that he needed to go to the ER afterwards because he had “appendicitis”. Man, if only! As I read this article, I see where at least one of our song lyrics came from. Most of what he says in this article here: “These days I find I need a little medication to curb some of the depression, anger and focus on things.” he used in the chorus to History Repeated’s song D.A.F.T. He was very creative with lyrics, often writing them on the spot before I was even finished showing everyone my song parts. He would suddenly be off scribbling away and quickly be done with always impressive, always Stabb lyrics. I miss my friend.

  4. We have released a Limited Edition CD of John’s post GI ventures EMMA PEEL and STABB.
    It is available on his website and all proceeds go to his medical expenses. It is also on iTunes.
    https://johnstabb.com/2016/05/17/for-sale-john-stabb-riding-for-candyland-1991-1993/
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/riding-for-candyland-1991/id1112658363

  5. Lia Serbyn says:

    It’s a great cd Brooke! Thanks.

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