Yesterday morning, North Carolina lost a guitarist who influenced many people in its music scene—my longtime friend Joe Young, the guitarist of the Southern punk band ANTiSEEN I am one of those people he impacted; in fact, I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time some 30 years ago, when I was only 15.
It was 1983, and I was a teenager living in Charlotte. Since I was 7 or 8 years old, I’d been listening to and become a dedicated fan of bands like KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Cheap Trick and DEVO. Rock ’n’ roll was my source of happiness, and I continued to search it out in many forms. Even at my young age, rock was always there for me, helping me snake through the world’s chaos.
Around this time, my friend Mindy and I saw a flyer posted in a local record store. Its photo featured guys with mohawks; one of them was punching another guy with an already-bloodied face. “ANTiSEEN Returns To The YELLOW ROSE,” it read. This didn’t look like Gene Simmons’ KISS blood. This looked real! I’d never seen anything like this. It was threatening. So, what was this ANTi-SEEN?
Intrigued by this “punk rock” we’d heard about for years, we decided to go to the show. The Yellow Rose was an odd beast—a country-western bar by day, a punk rock club by night. It also sat just across the street from where I lived, so we could walk. Perfect! I’d seen rock shows before at huge venues, but this would be my first time seeing a small club show. I had no idea what to expect.
In the late afternoon of the nighttime gig, we walked up to the front door of The Yellow Rose. We heard Joe Young’s powerful one-chord riffs pulsating through the front door, so we hesitated. It sounded so angry and raw. What was on the other side of the door? The fists of mohawked rebels? Something worse? After all, I was wearing my Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt, and that was definitely not punk rock. We opened the door a little to have a peek, and I jokingly pushed Mindy inside. After she shrieked in fear, we noticed that chaos didn’t actually reign. We walked to the stage where the band was just finishing soundcheck.
Joe noticed us: “Hey, y’all. I don’t think I’ve seen you here before. My name’s Joe Young. Nice to meet you!” He reached out to shake our hands. That would be the start of a multi-decade friendship. A few weeks later, he taught me how to play one chord on the electric guitar, and I soon purchased my first axe—a cheap-o $60 Sears model. Joe even invited me to ride along in the van with ANTiSEEN to a few shows around the state. It was my first glance into the behind-the-scenes world of rock ’n’ roll, something I would be drawn to again and again throughout life.
I went to more ANTiSEEN shows at The Yellow Rose. Because of my early curfew, I couldn’t even stay for some of them, but I paid the cover charge and enjoyed the soundcheck, nonetheless. I just wanted to be around those guys.
Although I’ve never considered myself to be a musician, I have been in many bands over the years. I have Joe Young to thank for that. He didn’t teach me how to create music. He taught me how to make noise, noise for the sake of noise. That was so much cooler. In ANTiSEEN, Joe’s guitar and Jeff Clayton’s vocals provided the signature sound—a unique blend of redneck belligerence and punk rock power they called Southern hostility. I’d never heard anything like it, and no one has ever sounded quite like ANTiSEEN.
Joe welcomed me, a kid interested in learning more about this “punk rock” thing, into his group of friends with open arms. He was the most friendly and inviting member of his band, and I now realize he changed my life in ways I could have ever imagined back in 1983. I loved him like a brother, and even though I usually only saw him once or twice a year, he always greeted me with a smile. We’d start to reminisce.
Joe helped make my rock ’n’ roll dreams come true, and I will cherish his memory forever. R.I.P., Mighty Joe Young.
Michael Pilmer lives in Raleigh, runs ANTiSEEN’s official web site and has worked for his favorite band, DEVO, for more than a decade. He continues to pursue his rock ’n’ roll dreams.