By Karl Widerquist, The Bass Player from Remember Alice?


††††††††††††† The Twenty%Tippers were one of New Yorkís most underground bands.They never made it.They never broke out of the New York underground scene.Actually, they never really broke into underground scene.Iíll tell you why they never made it.I know because I was there, I saw it.I saw it all.I was a bass player in a band at least as far underground as they were.We played shows together back in the early 90s.Remember those days?Yeah, it was a quieter time, a simpler time, a more innocent time.

††††††††††††† The first time I ever heard of them somebody asked me, ďHave you ever heard of The Twenty%Tippers?

††††††††††††† I said, ďNo, Iíve never heard of them.Ē

††††††††††††† I thought it was a rather unmarketable name.kindív implied lounge act.

††††††††††††† A few months later I just happened to be At Brownies when they were playing, and I thought, ďOh, yeah, Iíve heard of them.Ē

††††††††††††† Ken, The guitar player, had really bad posture, but he made it work for him.It made for a weird dance, the way he kindív nodded his head while he played, like an autistic child. Fab, The singer, the fabulous one, had a great voice.But, [not than Iím anyone to talk], he couldíve shed a few pounds; he had no kindív front man look.He was the only one who didnít wear a suite and he looked like he didnít care one way or the other if he was there or not.

††††††††††††† But, thatís not why they never made it.

††††††††††††† Fab played one drum.This allowed him to do some sort of Island sounding drum solos once in a while.This was the only thing interesting about their sound at the time, but I never saw them do it again.But, thatís not why they never made it. Andre, The sax player, looked like he was too cool to be with the rest of them, which was pretty sad since he was actually quite a geek. After the show a woman, who turned out to be Christina, Kenís girlfriend, came up to me and said something.She spoke in a thick Chinese accent, and I couldnít understand a single word she said.I just nodded my head like an autistic child.She gave me a piece of paper, luckily I was hip to these things, I knew it was the mailing list so I gave them my address.Their Bass player, Dean, looked like ďThe JokerĒ from the Batman cartoon, not the movie or the TV show Joker.Tall and thin with an evil looking grin, which was out of place since heís the nicest guy.He came up to me after the show, I asked him how much I should leave for a tip, he said, ďLook, I donít know, really the name was their idea, I really donít know anything about it.Ē

††††††††††††† Their sound defied classification.It was so much like so many other things, that you couldnít really call it any one thing.It was definitely nothing new.But, it wasnít enough like any one particular era that you could call it retro either.But, thatís not why they never made it.Thereís always a place in the music industry for totally generic sounding white guys.Look at the Spin Doctors, Brian Adams, Hootie, well, donít look at Hootie, listen to Hootie.You could make the same description of their music I made of the Tippers, but Hootie & The Blowfish: more than 10,000,000 copies sold.The Twenty%Tippers: less than 1000 copies given away free.

††††††††††††† A free cassette and their mailings started to arrive.The mailings always had a poster for the show, and a bunch of words, no headline.Nothing to call your attention and make you want to read them.I didnít know what it was, and I didnít bother to read any of them for about a year, until the tippers and my band ended up playing a weekly show together at the Sun Mountain Cafe.Then we started to get to know each other and I started paying more attention to the stuff they sent me.The stories were good, funny sortív a cynically depressed way; they really showed off Kenís I-may-slit-my-wrists-at-any-moment attitude.I asked Andre where their name came from, he said he didnít know.Fab didnít know either.

††††††††††††† I really liked playing with them.OK their sound was nothing special, but their songs and their lyrics were really good, and they were really willing to try stuff.But, they didnít know their good stuff from their bad stuff.They had this Reggae song called ďI Married a Trapeze Artist in Scranton,Ē that used to get everyone up dancing.But, they refused to do anything else remotely like so they had to stretch it out as long as possible knowing that everybody would sit right back down afterwards.Then they recorded a slowed down sleepy version of it Ďcause they thought the Reggae version was ďtoo formulaic,ĒJust this utter lack of disregard for anything people seemed to like.

††††††††††††† But, thatís not why they never made it.

††††††††††††† Finally I found somebody who knew what the name meant.Ken, the Guitar player, told me it was his idea.ďIt was something Robert (Bah Bah Black Sheep) Conrad said to G. Gordon (Watergate break-in) Liddy when Conrad was playing Liddy in a made for TV movie, ĎYouíve got to become a Twenty % Tipper because, now that your in the public eye, people now who you are, and they know your doing well, and theyíll remember if you donít give them that little extra.íĒ

††††††††††††† Ken had this distinct and annoying ďCanít doĒ attitude.Heíd try things, but always believing nothing could ever work.ďI donít think anyoneís gonía come to these shows, and if they do itíll just be people coming for the drinks not the bands.We offer free cassettes on our fliers, so we get this big mailing list, but these arenít the type of people who come out to see shows, or these arenít the type of shows people come out to see.I canít tell which.ĒNevertheless the Tippers keep putting up the fliers offering the free cassettes.Ken could angst with the best of them.I canít imagine a conversation with Curt Cobain in the last days would be much more depressing than one with Ken Sorken.But, The Tippers never exploited the image.They never hit the teen-angst market.Instead, a lot of their songs were happy up and beat songs, and tried to make people have a good at their shows, until they opened their mouths, of course.

††††††††††††† After the stable Sun Mountain period came the Tippers era of band turn over. Andre moved, and Fab was kicked out about five times.He didnít really care about anything.He stopped showing up to rehearsals and then gigs.He seemed to have this attitude like they couldnít make it with out him.Which is strange since they obviously couldnít make it with him.They never seemed to have the same drummer for very long, or a sane drummer at all.Fab kept coming back to fill in on drums, whenever they needed it.Ken and Dean where the only ones who stuck around, but thatís not why they never made it.Ken decided that women singers were ďinĒ so they decided to go for a woman singer, which naturally meant having a different woman singer every few months.So youíd never know who theyíd be playing with at any show, but you could count on them being barely rehearsed.

††††††††††††† But, Thatís not why they never made it.

††††††††††††† I began to fall in with the Tippers crowd.Apparently they had a mailing list of over 1000 people and a loyal following nearly a dozen.But, what there was, was loyal, you got to recognize them after a while.There was that blonde couple, that girl, whatís her name, the bandís girlfriends, relatives, and the growing list of former band members, and people who used to play shows with them.Not all of these people came to every show, but they came, and other people came once in a while, and usually other bands on the bill any night bring people, and, of course, walk-ins.Thatís the following that took five years to build.

††††††††††††† But, thatís not why they never made it.

††††††††††††† Iíll tell you why they never made it.One night after a show the tippers asked the gang to go to a restaurant.We hung out for at Kiev on 7th St. and 2nd Ave.People were putting in money for the check.The total was $50.There was $55 dollars in the pile, and Ken said, ďThatís plenty.ĒAnother band of rock and roll pretenders; The Twenty%Tippers only tip 10%.