Meet The Lookouts

Meet The Lookouts

I’d been trying to start a punk rock band for at least two or three years, but The Lookouts finally got off the ground in February 1985 when I asked the 12 year old kid down the road if he wanted to try playing the drums. We were living on the back side of Iron Peak, high atop Spy Rock Road, some 18 miles northeast of the bustling metropolis (pop. 1,000) of Laytonville, California. Our nearest neighbors in any direction were about a mile away, there was no electricity except generators or solar power, no telephones (we used CB radios to communicate), and anybody up there who was interested in music at all was mostly into hippie rock, reggae, or country and western, so punk rock drummers (or punk rock anything) were not exactly in abundance. Though the 12 year old had never touched a drum in his life before that day, he proved to have a real knack for the instrument, so I renamed him Tre Cool and told him he was in the band. Our 14 year old bass player Kain Kong was dubious about letting such a young kid in the band (people wouldn’t take us seriously, he said, as if they did anyway), but after a few practices Tre convinced him he could do the job. Later that year we recorded our first demo tape, and between then and 1990, we also recorded two albums, two 7″ EPs, and a few other compilation tracks. We never officially broke up, but by 1990 we were living in three different places and only got together to play or record once in a long while. On July 10, 1990, we went into The Art Of Ears studio in San Francisco and recorded nine songs, six of which would ultimately be released, and then went over to Oakland to play what would be, though we didn’t know it at the time, our last show. I was never that great at lead guitar (or rhythm guitar, for that matter, if we’re going to be honest), so I asked a friend named Billie Joe to play on the recordings. Later that year, Billie Joe’s own band was short a drummer, and they asked Tre if he wanted to try out for the job. He turned out to be pretty good at it, the band went on to be pretty successful, and ever since then Tre’s been kind of too busy to get together for Lookouts practice. The same is true of Kain, who for quite a few years now has been a national park ranger in Northern California. People sometimes ask me if the Lookouts will ever play again, and I tell them that if all three of us are ever in the same place at the same time, with instruments, and we can remember how to play any of our songs, it’s possible. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Lookouts were: Larry Livermore, guitar and vocals, Kain Kong, bass and vocals, and Tre Cool, drums and vocals. All three of us played a role in the songwriting.

California (Mendocino)
[audio:|titles=California (Mendocino)|artists=The Lookouts]
This is from the first Lookouts recording ever, a demo tape made in 1985. It’s a cover of the classic Simpletones tune from the late 70s, with some lyrics updated to reflect life in the mountains of Mendocino County. The beautiful soprano vocal belongs to Tre, who was still only 12 at the time.

The Green Hills Of England
[audio:|titles=The Green Hills Of England|artists=The Lookouts]
In the spring of 1987 I was driving some half-car/half oxcart across Wiltshire or Devon when the bonnet/hood came undone and flew up in my face. I tied it down with the low E string from my acoustic guitar, but before I could set off again, an incredible rainstorm came sweeping across the fields with such velocity as to render driving unwise if not impossible. So I sat there for a half hour or so and wrote this song about the Roman invasion of Britain. It’s from our second album, Spy Rock Road.

That Girl’s From Outer Space
[audio:|titles=That Girl’s From Outer Space|artists=The Lookouts]
This was the first song on our Spy Rock Road album, recorded in November 1988, released in May 1989. Written and sung by 15 year old Tre Cool.

[audio:|titles=Agape|artists=The Lookouts]
This was from our final recording session on July 10, 1990, and was written and sung by Kain Kong. As with several other songs from that session, Billie Joe Armstrong played lead guitar, but on this particular track, I had the honor – albeit a rather intimidating one – of playing dueling lead guitars with Billie on the instrumental break. You shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out which is which, however. The title “Agape,” by the way is not, as many people have thought, pronounced in two syllables, but in three – ah-guh-pay, and refers to some high-faluting philosophical concept of brotherly love dating back to the ancient Greeks. Or at least that’s what Kain told us. You want to know more, including what the lyrics are, track him down.

Once Upon A Time
[audio:|titles=Once Upon A Time|artists=The Lookouts]
This was from the same session, and features Billie Joe unreeling a majestic, rambling guitar lead that he made up on the spur of the moment and has always reminded me – for better or worse – of Led Zeppelin. The song was written and sung by Kain and is some sort of North Coast Nature Boy stuff about how the earth is beautiful and humans are evil. It appeared on the More Songs About Plants And Trees compilation on Allied Records, which was probably one of the first punk rock records issued as a consciousness-raiser and benefit for environmental causes.

[audio:|titles=Outside|artists=The Lookouts]
Tre was 14 or 15 when he wrote and sang this little ditty, which remains one of my favorite Lookouts songs ever. It appeared on a compilation called The Thing That Ate Floyd, released in 1988.

Living Behind Bars
[audio:|titles=Living Behind Bars|artists=The Lookouts]
This is a song I wrote about going to visit Jesse Michaels, Jake Filth and Lenny Isocracy at the Ashtray in West (ish) Oakland. The blazing guitar lead is courtesy of Tim Armstrong. It appeared on Spy Rock Road, 1989.

Red Sea
[audio:|titles=Red Sea|artists=The Lookouts]Something a little different.  I made up the Middle Eastern-sounding guitar parts, but other than that, this song was written and sung by Kain Kong.

Out My Door
[audio:|titles=Out My Door|artists=The Lookouts]
From the IV EP. I wrote it and sing it. Billie Joe plays lead guitar and sings backups. I think Tre is singing backups, too.

[audio:|titles=Story|artists=The Lookouts]
Same as above, except with a different tune. I know Tre is singing backups along with Billie Joe on this one.

The Mushroom Is Exploding
[audio:|titles=The Mushroom Is Exploding|artists=The Lookouts]
The first song ever written and sung by Tre Cool, at least the first I know about. Recorded in the summer of 1985, when he was 12 years old and was still a soprano with a 3 1/2 octave range.

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