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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE

TSOL Drummer Todd Barnes Dies

December 08, 1999|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Todd Barnes, the original drummer for seminal Southern California punk group TSOL who spent his adult life battling drug and alcohol abuse, died Monday after being taken off life support. He was 34.

Barnes had suffered a brain aneurysm Friday and was taken to Long Beach Medical Center, said family spokesman Jack Grisham, TSOL's original lead singer and Barnes' bandmate in a succession of groups over the years.

"He'd been abusing drugs and alcohol for 20 years," Grisham said Tuesday. "He wasn't high that day, but he was complaining of headaches. There was a lot of speed in his system when they checked him. The doctor said it basically blew his brain up."

Grisham said Barnes had been in a coma since Friday and showed no brain activity over the weekend. His body will be cremated after an autopsy to pinpoint the cause of death.

Grisham and fellow original TSOL members Mike Roche and Ron Emory, who have been doing reunion shows this year with Danny Westman at the drums, said they will play a free concert sometime soon, along with Huntington Beach punk band the Vandals and All Day as a farewell to Barnes. The date and location of the concert are still being determined. A TSOL performance on Saturday at the Glass House in Pomona will go ahead as scheduled, Grisham said.

"A lot of drummers aspire to be like Todd," bassist Roche said Tuesday. "He's on this pedestal as one of the untouchable drummers. His right hand, the creativeness in his drumming were like nobody else at the time. . . . It's amazing, the little towns we'd go to and there were these cult followings for Todd."

Roche recalled a show in the Midwest earlier this year at which the group played everything they'd rehearsed with Westman and even a few songs they hadn't. He said the audience wanted to hear even more old TSOL material.

"Danny didn't know the stuff, and we hadn't played it in 20 years," Roche said, "so a couple of guest drummers from local bands came up and knew [Barnes' parts] verbatim. . . . There were legions of drummers who were turned on by what he did. A lot of bands that are big now borrow heavily from what Todd did. He was an original."

The first TSOL lineup--which sometimes included guitarist Frank Agnew for touring--disbanded in 1983, after the group had become known as the most volatile of the original wave of O.C.-Long Beach punk bands.

Barnes hadn't played with his old TSOL bandmates for a decade, since their first reunion in 1989. "He did great at that show, but then he disappeared. We went to play a benefit for another friend of ours who had died as a direct result of drugs and alcohol, but Todd didn't show up."

Guitarist Emory said Tuesday that he last ran into Barnes about six weeks ago at a Huntington Beach club.

"We talked all night," Emory said. "He was extremely drunk. . . . When they closed the bar down, he pulled out a bottle of Wild Turkey and said that him and the Wild Turkey were going to the grave together. That's the last thing he said to me."

Earlier, Emory said, "He had told me he could do without the speed and the drugs, but he wasn't willing to give up his booze. He drank like crazy since we were kids. He never stopped, not for any substantial amount of time. . . . He just wasn't willing to put the bottle down."

All the original TSOL members have had major substance-abuse problems. Grisham said he's been sober for 11 years, Roche for two and Emory for 10 months.

"The amazing thing is that--so far, so good--three of us have [given up drugs and alcohol]," Roche said. "Statistically that's insane. So maybe it shouldn't be so surprising that we've lost one to the battle. But it still hurts a lot."

Barnes had no siblings. He is survived by his mother and grandfather.

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