Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mike Sammon R.I.P. (1966- 2006)

Word came across the grapevine today that Mike Sammon had passed away. Mike was a member of Umlaut's South Bay Old Metal gang in the early-80's. Click HERE for the notice in the San Jose Mercury News.

I honestly had not seen or talked to Mike since around 1985.. However, I always remembered him as being part of my circle of Metal Bruthas back in those Salad Days. Life was so simple and innocent: METAL and, uh, MORE METAL. Mike was a quiet rager when I knew him and we saw dozens of shows together in shithole clubs and arenas. I seem to remember he had a paper route delivering the S.F. Chronicle so we'd get an advance look at upcoming gigs in each Sunday's Datebook since he'd get them a couple of days early.

A vivid memory I have is driving up to Ruthie's Inn, Berkeley in Umlaut's old VW Fastback (aka The Metal Mobile) for a Metal show (probably Exodus). We blasted tunes on Mike's new boombox. I parked in the lot behind the club and, for whatever stupid reason, didn't put the boombox in the trunk (?!). This despite the fact that Ruthie's was in a sketchy area.. but we were young and stupid Metalheads. Instead we "hid" it under the floor mat along with Umlaut's leather jacket. After the show we discovered that my car had been broken into and the boombox and jacket were gone. Lesson learned.

In subsequent years I heard about his struggles via the grapevine, but I never saw Mike again after I moved on from the S.F. Metal Scene. It all seems like it was a million years ago now... Good times. That's all I can say, really.

Rest In Peace, brutha. METAL.

Mike in The Pit at Ruthie's Inn, Berkeley - circa 1984 (Pic by Umlaut)

Submitted by John Scharpen:

The last contact I had with him was probably about six years ago. I think his parents put him into some sort of program at some point, due to his drug habit. I know they took away all or most of his records and tapes, because when he tracked me down he handed me a bunch of blank TDK D-90s so I could start taping him all of my NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal). He didn't want anything more current than about 1983 or so. I'm not sure exactly what he'd been through in the intervening years since we all went to shows together, but he was living in a dreary little halfway house in Sunnyvale with a roommate (an ex-cop, I think). I went there once and it was pretty depressing. He talked in a loud monotone, as if the subtleties of speech had somehow been lost to him. Not sure why.

I actually tried to avoid him, not returning his calls when he left messages, because all he ever wanted was to hand me piles of blank tapes. It was kind of awkward being around him, since he never went into any detail about what I perceived to be his mental illness. Maybe I should have tried harder. As it is, when I moved I didn't tell him. He called my mom's house sometime in the last year, but she didn't give him my new number, and I didn't call him.

We did have fun in high school though, sometimes going to more than one show in a day. I remember seeing Accept in San Jose and then skipping headliners Saxon and going up to see Megadeth in San Francisco. I remember countless shows at Ruthie's Inn and The Stone and other random venues around the Bay Area. And then we all went and grew up. Some of us successfully. Some of us not. I can't say that I'll miss him, but I'm really sorry to hear that he died.

Oh, and for some reason I remember that when the rugby team he was playing for came back from New Zealand he nearly waxed poetic about the beauty of the countryside he saw there. Nearly. Metalheads are afraid of poetry.

I also remember that he had a pretty good tape collection. He was one of the first to start ordering demo tapes from bands across the U.S. and Europe. I think we shared an order the first time we got stuff from The Record Exchange in Walnut Creek - Accept's Restless and Wild. A classic.

Added 1/23/06 by Rich Hellhound:

Mike Sammon first showed up, I believe, at a HELLHOUND rehearsal in 1983, along with Scharpen, Vanderkuil and Elliot Riviera, all of whom I also met for the first time that night. The event was captured for all time by Umlaut and his trusted camera, the most notable pic being of what would become known as "The Broom Brothers" (essentially, everyone air guitaring with assorted brooms and mops during one of our songs). This group eventually earned a more respectable moniker, The South Bay Maniacs, though this title was only officially used at HELLHOUND shows. Mike was indeed quiet, and so my early memories are of him with The Maniacs, just sort of one of the bunch. I do remember him getting into pot later on (probably around '85), and getting my brother stoned at shows.

My most vivid memory involving Sammon concerns a night in '83 or '84 when he, Scharpen, Vanderkuil and I were all piled in my Dad's 1977 Toyota Corolla, making our rounds of record stores and such (when not playing Metal, much of my spare time involved the search for, and procurement of, said Metal, in it's various recorded forms).

We had just left Tower Records in Mountain View (years before Scharpen would work there), and I decided to head up into the hills for a little adventure. I had seen Twilight Zone - The Movie shortly before this, and decided to re-enact the scene in which Dan Ackroyd is driving a hitchhiker down a dark, deserted highway, wherein he asks the now-famous question, "Want to see something really scary?" He then proceeds to turn the headlights off for short periods of time, effectively scaring the hell out of his passenger.

In retrospect, a winding mountain road was probably not the best location for my version of this scenario, but, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Long story short, I drove over a soft shoulder during one of the moments while my headlights were off, and skidded into the side of the mountain. The car came to rest between the mountain and one of those steel support cables for a telephone pole, and there was a long silence as everyone recovered from the jolt.

The first thing I remembered hearing was Mike saying, "Rich, you asshole," very quietly in typical Sammon fashion. I then proceeded to concoct a believable story concerning a car that came at us head-on around the blind corner (it really was a blind corner, luckily), and I made everyone memorize it.

When the cops showed up, they interviewed us separately, and everyone got the story right. One of the cops even said, "Yeah, this sort of thing happens all the time up here." It was perfect. I of course told my parents the same bullshit, and the insurance company paid the claim, though they dropped my Dad afterwards. Literally ten years later I told my parents the truth about what happened, and they were still pissed.