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Rob Moss's Top 5 Favorite Songs to Play in Government Issue

23 September 2022

Playing Favorites is an interview series where creative people pick a topic and tell us their five favorite things about it. Opinions expressed in this series are those of the interviewees and do not reflect the opinions of S.W. Lauden or The Big Takeover.

Rob Moss was a member of Government Issue and Artificial Peace in the early ’80s. Fast forward 40+ years to his new 11-song album, Now With More Rockets, the follow up to his 2020 release, We’ve Come Back to Rock ‘n’ Roll. Moss’s current music goes beyond his deep hardcore roots to explore proto-punk, glam and straight up rock and roll. Robert Moss and Skin-Tight Skin includes Moss (vocals/guitar), Dwight Reid (bass) and Danny Frankel (drums), but the new album features a cavalcade of guest guitar heroes including Bob Balch (Fu Manchu), Razzle Markel (Not Dead Yet) and Sal Baglio (The Stompers)—among many others. I asked Moss to share his five favorite songs to play when he was in Government Issue.




ROB MOSS’S TOP 5 FAVORITE SONGS TO PLAY IN GOVERNMENT ISSUE

Being in Government Issue and playing on their 1983 summer tour enabled me to join my favorite band. Plus, I was friends with them from the beginning. Actually, before the beginning. Marc Alberstadt and I go all the way back to kindergarten. The ’83 tour took us to cities all over the US. We drove John Stabb’s dad’s old Buick, pulling a U-Haul trailer full of gear.

It was just the four of us. No roadies, no tour manager, no support staff. Tom Lyle and I did nearly all the driving. Some nights we slept at a fan’s place, which could range from a parent’s house to a squat. Other nights we’d drive to the next town after playing a show. It was how we did it back then. Writing this list allowed me to go back and think about those times and these songs.

Here are my five favorite songs that I got to play as a member of Government Issue.

5. “Plain to See”
The intro starts with bass and drums, before Tom Lyle pulls the lid off a can of feedback, followed with some long-sustaining power chords, more feedback and riffs. And the whole time the bass just keeps pumping out this menacing rhythm. Until Marc Alberstadt signals that “Plain to See” is ready for takeoff. We launch into a fast tempo, joined by John Stabb on vocals. I picture Stabb gesturing with his fist, punching the air in between lines. Then back to a reprise of the intro with bass and drums. Tom offers some short killer solo-noise that absolutely fits the song, before the band dives back in again for the fast part.

4. “Time to Escape”
Marc initiates this rocker! “Time to Escape” demonstrates how well Government Issue could apply the best elements of heavy metal and classic rock (from Motörhead to Robin Trower) to hardcore punk. This song was later recorded in the studio with Mike Fellows on bass for the game-changing album, Joy Ride, released in 1984. It was a blast to play live.




3. “Notch to My Crotch”
Another solidly-constructed song with a heavy metal influence and John’s sarcastic lyrics that’s also featured on Joy Ride. While the live version I played at this July 30, 1983 CBGB show, which appears on Government Issue’s Live Bootleg Series, may not have the perfection of the studio recording, it attests to the power of GI as a live band.

2. “Dead Dog”
Was this sludgy doom metal song an homage to Bobby Liebling’s Pentagram, or a bit of a sendup designed to confuse the hardcore kids? Or both? A better question: does it matter? When one played “Dead Dog” on stage, one got to feel like they were on the bill with Black Sabbath, The Obsessed or Witchfinder General. And that alone made it a super fun song to play.



1. “Sheer Terror”
Written during the Mark I, John Barry-Brian Gay -era of Government Issue, the song appeared on the band’s first E.P., Legless Bull, and went on to become the GI’s signature tune for many years, with at least four different versions on four different recordings.

What’s “Sheer Terror” like to play? In a way, it’s like playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Ludwig created one of the world’s most recognizable pieces of music out Ba-ba-ba-bum, ba-ba-ba-bum. So when Brian Gay came up with his Boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba Boom-Ba! Boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-boom-ba-Boom-Ba! bass line he was channeling Beethoven, even if he didn’t know it!

Yes, it’s incredibly simple. But combined with Marc’s drum beat, it created an unforgettable backdrop for John Stabb, John Barry and, later, Brian Baker and Tom Lyle to go wild on stage or in the studio. “Sheer Terror”? Sheer genius!

TWO BONUS SONGS

1. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”
Written by Lee Hazlewood for Nancy Sinatra in 1965, the song’s a garage rock anthem. And the tempo of GI’s version doesn’t stray too far ahead of Nancy’s 83 beats per minute (BPM). Government Issue just played it heavier. And that unhurried speed is just right for walking in a pair of boots when you mean business. In other words: trying to turn it into a thrash metal song and play it at 158 or 172 BPM sounds as silly as trying to run in a pair of high heeled boots.




2. “Asshole”
This song from the first E.P. showcased John Barry’s super-fast, all-downstroke approach to playing guitar. And Tom Lyle made it just as blistering. Like a lawn mower played through a Marshall stack. John’s lyrics describe what happened when idiots began showing up at shows and not understanding the scene. At under two minutes long, is “Asshole” the perfect old school hardcore song to play? I think so.

Previously on Playing Favorites:
Jim Ruland’s Top 5 Favorite Punk Books
James Spooner’s Top 5 Favorite Female-/Non-Binary Fronted Punk Bands
Carolina Hidalgo’s Top 5 Favorite Funny Punk Musicians