Harley and friends by Bruce Rhodes, 1983
When you’re fighting, shit happens; I almost bit a guy’s finger off once. Fortunately for the guy, I have a missing tooth on that side of my mouth, so his thumb slipped into the missing spot, and I just kind of gnawed all the meat around the bone off. But like I was saying about my friend, I was like, “Don’t let this motherfucker out of the house.” He was being so belligerent. With what just happened, I knew the cops were looking for him all over the neighborhood. So I left him there and I went from that back to the studio to finish recording.
It was just another day in my fucking life. Of course, they were not able to keep his out-of-his-mind ass restrained, because everybody was so afraid of him except for me and a few of my friends.
He went back out on the street, got caught, and went to jail for a considerable amount of time. This kind of shit made the lyrics on The Age of Quarrel raw, real reality. “We Gotta Know” had some of the first lyrics that John contributed, those and “Face the Facts”: “Strugglin’ in the streets just trying to survive/Searchin’ for the truth is just keepin’ us alive”—that’s pretty much where John and me were at that point. He was just beginning his spiritual quest. You’ve got young people that are confused, making mistakes and looking for the truth, looking for answers. The lyrics are powerful. “We Gotta Know” was written when we were practicing at Westbeth, a big tenement and artist complex on the Westside highway where a lot of our friends lived, including the Ice Men, Front Line, and Gabby Abularach, who years later would play on Alpha Omega.
It came together like this: the Bad Brains had not played the song “I Against I” in years; this was before it was on their I Against I album. But my friend Dave Hahn, their old manager, had a copy of it on tape. When I’d go to his house, I’d listen to it, and I still remembered the song. But I didn’t remember it well enough to cover it, which I wanted to do. So I wanted to write a song that was as nasty and vicious. At the time, Mackie and the Bad Brains had been turning me on to a lot of fusion shit, and I had started picking up on a lot of it on my own, whether it was Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Weather Report. A lot of it had big open chords with crazy drum fills over them. Though some of the parts sounded really complicated, sometimes they’d actually be very simple.