Joe Bonni, subject of several Anal Cunt songs, on the death of Seth Putnam
In the pantheon of Anal Cunt songs, "I Just Saw The Gayest Guy On Earth" is among the most memorable -- for one thing, it's an a-cappella tune, sung in the round. (Perhaps it was Seth Putnam's impression of what the Boston Gay Men's Chorus sounded like?) But unless you happened to be living in Allston, Massachusetts in the early 1990s, the lyrics would've been inscrutible: Putnam used that song, and much of the rest of the album 40 More Reasons To Hate Us, which got national distribution through Earache Records, to take aim at then-little-known landmarks, bands, and neghborhood characters. (There was a song on the record called "Everyone In Allston Should Be Killed.") Another artist might have considered petty scene infighting to be beneath the art of songwriting: for Putnam, putting them front and center was part of the joke. So here's what we know about The Gayest Guy On Earth: his favorite band was Roadsaw; he always wears a Tree shirt; he works at Herrell's Ice Cream. His best friend? Joe Bonni.
Joe Bonni? If Anal Cunt fans had heard the name, it was probably only from another Anal Cunt song: the one, from the same album, called "Punching Joe Bonni's Face In":
"You always write about the dumbest fucking bands
It figures you live in Allston
You try and take over everything you're involved in
You started a new column because your camera got broken
Are you gonna start a new column when I punch your face in? "
But if you lived in Boston at the time and had even a passing interest in punk, metal, or hardcore, you probably knew Joe Bonni from his zine, the Pit Report. (He was also, briefly, a Phoenix correspondent.) In the pre-internet era, Pit Report was one of the few underground publications chronicling the underbelly of loud Boston rock. These days Bonni is studying cultural anthropology at the University of Chicago. When he heard the news about Seth Putnam's death, from a heart attack, at the age of 43, he posted on Facebook: "Now who will write songs about me? RIP Seth cuz Lord knows you didn't find much on this side." We asked Bonni to reflect a little further, and here's what he had to say:
"As a TA at the University of Chicago, many of my students Google me ("What's up with the prof with a tattoo on his head?") and inevitably find that I am a character in at least three Anal Cunt songs with one dedicated to me ("Punching Joe Bonni's Face In"). When one of the braver students broaches this with me it usually provides an opportunity to open a discussion about "authenticity" in counter cultural forms of art and music. That is, Seth was both a critic of any and all sense of authority or tradition or political correctness, and yet he was more than savvy enough to recognize the trends, hypocrisies, and symbols (and "tastemakers" like the Pit Report or the Boston Phoenix) that existed not only in mainstream culture but in underground culture as well. Nothing was safe from his ugly but savage wit and his diatribes were not entirely random insults solely trolling for a negative response, but also a nihilist's challenge to all notions of appropriate behavior, be it above or underground. I never took the act entirely seriously or personally though becasue on the handful of times I actually ran into him, he always made an effort to let me know it wasn't a personal attack on me and he was just "fucking" around. And hey, AC did sit for an itnerview with the Pit Report back in the day. I've been immortalized in song by one of the worst bands to ever take a stage - as an anthropologist and former music journalist, how can I not be complimented?"