“GG Allin – All in the Family”

The Notorious GG

Amos Lassen

The late American extreme punk rock musician, GG Allin was an extreme punk rock musician who is remembered for his notorious live performances, which often featured transgressive acts, including self-mutilation, eating his own feces, and attacking the audience. He died of a heroin overdose in 1993. In director Sami Saif’s  documentary “GG Allin-All in the Family”, we meet the two remaining family members, mother Arleta and brother Merle, who is still active in GG Allins backing band The Murder Junkies. This is the story of an extraordinary loving family, whose late son and brother left a trail of unanswered questions, and how we need to deal with our own version of the past to overcome the present and the future.

Some people don’t seek redemption and live for the sake of subverting everything they come across. The late Kevin Michael “GG” Allin, born in New Hampshire in 1956, took this to an extreme while performing. He vomited, defecated on stage, ate his feces, viciously attacked his own fans and broke into the street naked vandalizing whatever he came across. He also promised to commit suicide on stage, but a drug overdose took his life before he could do so in front of his fans. He was thought to be “the most spectacular degenerate in rock & roll history” and the “toughest rock star in the world”.

This isn’t just a documentary about GG Allin, but also his surviving family members and we see that GG is very much alive to both of them, if in very different ways. Arleta decided to reclaim the sweet and human side of GG, insisting that he was a loving human being and still “her boy”. Merle perpetuates his brother’s legacy by growing a moustache, playing music and painting with feces.

The documentary starts and ends with death, a theme that seemed to be important to GG’s life. His fans often urinate and defecate on his grave to his mother’s dismay. Arleta describes him as “normal, if a little kooky”. We see her as an average grandma. She doesn’t understand how she could give birth to two such strange characters but this doesn’t stop her from deeply loving both of them. Merle doesn’t visit her often, but when he does,  they listen to his latest tune together: “sucking your pussy on a Friday night”. What a beautiful bonding experience  with mom.

Before seeing this, I never heard of GG. In focusing too much on Arleta, it feels almost like the filmmaker wanted to redeem GG Allin by embracing his mother’s idea that he was a nice and a loving human being. This is the opposite of what GG tried to become.

He wanted to be hated by his fans, that’s why he attacked them. He was fueled by anger, and did what he could to generate animosity. His musical talents were extremely limited, and I doubt he wanted to be remembered for them even though his mother insists otherwise. His concerts were a freak show. He is without a doubt delighted when people vandalize his tombstone with excrement and bodily fluids. “He must be rock’n rolling in his grave.”

What we have here is a document of a man heading for his death), his plans of an on-stage suicide  or mass murder/suicide, depending on when you asked him – died with him, as did his interpretation of rock rebellion.

His band The Murder Junkies continued though, with brother Merle as the helm, and they continue to record and tour. The show is, of course, much more restrained  (as restrained as a show that includes audience members shoving drum sticks up the ass of an ageing, naked drummer ever can be).

The film opens with both Arleta and Merle expressing their anger at fans who have come to G.G.’s grave to urinate and defecate on it and this ultimately led to the removal of the headstone. Arleta regrets the needless loss of her son – a man who played a character and was finally consumed by it. Merle, meanwhile, continues to live the rock ‘n’ roll dream and is a conflicting figure – at times— the line between keeping his brother’s legacy alive and ruthlessly exploiting it seems thin and blurred.

Fans of Allin will be glad to hear that there is plenty of footage of the man himself performing live and it’s unrestrained and uncensored – so if the sight of naked men pissing into the audience while covered in blood and feces upsets you, this might prove a challenging viewing experience. But there is much more to this than mere shock value and sensationalism. At times, it’s quite moving, and by the end, only the most hardened viewer would still believe that Allin’s death was anything other than a pointless, unnecessary act of self-destruction, or that his whole act wasn’t simply a trap that he was unable to escape from. Fans interviewed in this film seem to be a dreadful bunch of punk rock clichés and self-consciously nihilistic losers.

The documentary gives us a broader view of who GG was, and of how his path of self-destruction affected the members of his family. It’s a fascinating cautionary tale.

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