By Richard Marriott
The Club Foot, at 2520 Third Street in San Francisco, was the brainchild of
Richard Kelly, a composer/visionary who had studied with John Cage and
David Tudor. It was Kelly's obsession to marry high art values to the
vitality of underground performance art; to fuse Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison
and Albert Ayler and project that onto the art-rock stage. The 1980 "Club
Foot" vinyl on Subterranean Records documents this scene, featuring four
bands which revolved around Kelly at that time: The Longshoremen, Naked
City (no relation to John Zorn's group), Bay of Pigs, and the Alterboys.
The Club Foot themes which open and close the aforementioned LP were
performed by a composite of those groups - this was the first Club Foot
After playing in some Kelly productions, I moved into the flat above the Club Foot. After fifteen months of ear-splitting angst emerging from below, I formed an orchestra to perform at a Club Foot music festival in June of 1983. Following a peculiar egalitarian ethic, all musicians were welcome to play; beginners took simple, but essential roles, virtuosos played the showy and difficult parts, and improvisors soloed over the top. We called ourselves "Orquestra FOOT a dentra la Boca". Our band included three members from Kelly's earlier group: Opter Flame, Karl DeLovely and Bruce Ackley of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet. Also present were Neil Kaku on bass, guitarist Eugene Chadbourne and Tutti on bass flute, plus Beth Custer, Josh Ende and Arny Young, who figure prominently in later groupings. Even at this first performance, the orchestra showed a fondness for music in odd meters: my composition "The Trial of Silly Satan" begins in a West African 12/8, moving through 7/4, 11/8, 5/4 and 13/8 before returning to the theme in 12/8. A month after the festival, Richard Kelly committed suicide at his home.
The orchestra reformed in October of 1983 to play at the Horn Reborn Festival at the "On-Broadway" in San Francisco. At this festival we were rechristened the Club Foot Orchestra, in reference to our home base and in tribute to Richard Kelly's vision. Over the next few years we played every club in town and people danced like they were on the Titanic. This period of the orchestra's history was captured in two Ralph Records recordings: "Wild Beasts" and "Kidnapped".
The Club Foot held its last performance in November of 1985. It was sold and turned into a sweatshop. It was again up for sale in 1993. Next time it's for sale, I'd like to buy it.