THE NEW DUNCAN IMPERIALS

On a dark and stormy night in 1994, I was shopping in Cheapo Records on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul.   I was in the mood for some New Order.  Clicking through the Ns in the used CDs, I saw it again. The CD with the three furry fake neon Easter chicks on the cover.  It had been there a while and it was hard to miss when looking at the Ns.  Again, there was no New Order, and no old New Order.  No Order at all.  I picked up the damn neon chick CD and flipped it over.  The New Duncan Imperials.  Hmm.  Some of the song titles were Tilt-a-Whirl, Running With a Fork in My Mouth, and Boo Boo the Kitty. I was slightly amused.  It was payday.  I was feeling sassy.  What the Hell.  I bought it, sound unheard.  In that moment, my ongoing love affair with NDI started and has yet to stop.

Since this was back in the day before the internet was much of a thing, you had to write in, on paper, to get put on their mailing list.  They would send postcards and random shit to your mailbox, you know, the one filled by that human being that makes your dog neighbors damn schnauzer bark for an hour?  The human with a bag on their shoulder (usually blue but not always) stuffs the thing with actual pieces of paper.  NDI was fancy.  They even had a phone line you could call to hear a recording of when their next shows were.  Long distance charges applied but it was only about a two minute recording so it wasn’t too spendy.

I could tell by the liner notes of Loserville that these guys had style and flair, so my fan letter to them had to be good. I mean, GOOD. I used my very best desktop publishing skills and crafted a letter, nay, a work of art.  I bared my very soul to them.  Told them how I needed to see them perform and said please PLEASE let me know when you’ll be in Minneapolis again and thank you so very much.  By the way, here’s a check of some of my hard earned money so could you send me a t-shirt too?  In no time, a large lumpy envelope arrived.  Most of the bubble wrap liner was shot, there were holes in it, it smelled faintly of cigarette smoke, and there were rubber bands sticking out of the packing tape (barely) holding the whole mess together.  Inside was my prized t-shirt, a catalog of other fine New Duncan Imperial items for sale, and other merch for Pravda Records bands.  There was also an NDI comic book, more rubber bands, a flyer for an NDI show a year ago in Des Moines, a match book, a hand scrawled note – “Hope ya like it, sugar!” – an 8×10 black and white photo of the band (suitable for framing of course), a plastic bug, and four paper clips.

WOW.

On the back of the note?  A list of upcoming gigs.

OHMYGODTHEYREGOINGTOBEINMINNEAPOLISINTWOWEEKS!

The day arrived.

My lame-@ss friend who said he was going to go with me to the Fine Line bailed on me at the last minute.  A terrified Little Miss St. Paul donned her brand new New Duncan Imperial t-shirt and headed across the dreaded Mississippi into Hennepin County and into downtown Minneapolis.  Alone.  “Dear Lord watch over me and help me not to die tonight.  Amen.”

I stood shaking like a leaf at the bar, grabbed my beer and was about ready to turn around to find a safe place to sit when an arm wrapped around my shoulders and there was a deep voice like velvet in my ear.  “Great shirt! Where’d you get it?!”  I turned.  Underneath a torn up straw hat twinkled the bluest eyes I’d ever seen… it was Goodtime C. Damnit, the drummer for NDI.  He turned me just a bit more and gently onto a stool at the bar.  He grabbed the one next to me.  We chatted for a bit, I think, but I was in full cardiac swoon-arrest. He was wearing a tuxedo coat with naked pictures of Marge Simpson and Wilma Flintstone on it.  No big whoop. A little while later, Goodtime leaned waaaaay back on his stool and grabbed a guy with pictures of fish on his tux coat who was walking by.  “Skip!  This is Kathy, the one…”  “The one that wrote us the letter with the thing and the yeah! I know! How are you?!”  ONMYGODHEKNOWSME.  Skipper Zwackinov knows ME.  Skipper pulled the barstool on the other side of me right up next to me, sat down, leaned his elbow on the bar, stuck his face right in my face and asked, “So, did OJ do it?”  Just that week the country was enthralled with the world’s slowest car chase starring OJ in the white Bronco.  Pigtail Dick stopped by, said “hello” and “outstanding” but I’m still not sure what he thought was outstanding.

By the end of the night, I had a vague promise of a freelance graphics job with Pravda Records, several shots of Jagermeister in my gut, confetti in my undergarments, silly string in my hair, a black mark by my name on the wall at the Fine Line for starting part of the bar on fire (An accident!  A flaming shot tipped over! It wasn’t entirely my fault!) and a passion to be in a band’s inner circle for the rest of my life. Shortly after that night, I started getting postcards mailed from the road as NDI toured from exotic places like Peoria, Rock Island and Winnipeg.  About a month later one of them said, “Sugar!  We have it!  Yes yes yes!  From now on you shall be known as Bunny!  Don’t ask why!  Yes Yes YES!  XOXO – Skip”

OMGOMGOMG.  Inner circle AND a band nickname.

Superfangirl swoony heaven in a nutshell.  Even if Skipper says I’m a bad Jew.

Visit the boys at https://www.pravdamusic.com/ !
Rare NDI interview footage!
Check out The Imperial Sound – I bet you’d love them if you love NDI!

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