Tracing the Ancestry of “Gasket”

“And Gasket, originally my take on industrial country jug band blues, has an inverted Howlin’ Wolf riff.  It’s a modern greasy blues tune originally about how I never used condoms as a teen.”  [from Beer Melodies]


I have been obsessed with the Moanin’ at Midnight/Gasket connection since I first heard an unnamed track (listed as 16.wav) on the Tipitina’s bootleg (if memory serves, sent to me by Metter Bozze) in 2010.  Already familiar with Gasket, I couldn’t help but think that, although the lyrics were very different, the guitar was definitely Gasket-y.  Listen and I’m betting you’ll agree:

Chris at Tipitina’s (1992-05-06): 

Listen to Howlin’ Wolf Moanin’ at Midnight and those of you who know music may understand what Chris meant when he said that Gasket uses an “inverted riff” of Moanin’:

In an Artist’s Picks [Rolling Stone, 3/5/92], Chris listed Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ at Midnight as one of his favorites/influences and described the song as “The meaning of life.”  Given the song’s lyrics, I’m thinking that his pronouncement is based on something other than the song’s literal meaning.

Well, somebody knocking on my door
Well, somebody knocking on my door
Well, I’m so worried, don’t know where to go

Well, somebody calling me, calling me on my telephone
Well, somebody calling, over my telephone
Well, keep on calling, tell them I’m not at home

Well, don’t not worry, Daddy has gone to bed

Chris’s lyrics get to the “sex without a condom” reference cited above:

Tell me darling why you wanna drive my gasket down
Tell me darling why you drive my gasket down
All them unwanted children never be forgiven now

Hear them drivin’ miles out of town
Hear them drivin’ miles out of town
All them engines, all them holes all in the ground

Sister grindin’ all around your daddy’s knee
Sister grindin’ all around your daddy’s knee

I don’t need no gasket just to grind
Just grind all over me


Here’s a short playlist to illustrate how Moanin’/Gasket evolved from its earliest form in 1991 until Gasket appeared on Terra Incognita (1997):

About the July 1995 (???) Gasket with Dougie Bowne

According to Dougie, it seems this was an unscheduled set  in which he had no drum set per se — he just beat on whatever “percussive junk” was available:

I didn’t tour on Din after we’d finished the record, [but I] came back before Terra, Chris and I started working on pre-production, things like that. I have no idea when this particular show was, but I would often not use a whole drumset when Chris and I performed together- some of the best shows were done like this. This one however- it’s ok- but I must have just shown up at the last minute- I don’t even think my pile of junk is mic’d. We did a whole series at Sine in NYC without a kit- I used a floor tom and a snare, and I stood up, also Cb’s gallery and SXSW….I don’t remember all of them, but it wasn’t unusual for us. [see ATCW for full discussion]

About Recording Gasket on Terra Icognita

Again, according to Dougie,

Terra was made in an interesting way- it was essentially Chris, myself and Mark Howard in El Teatro for over a month.  Guests came by, and people overdubbed later in NYC, but the basic tracking of most all of the record would be the two of us.  ….  By the way Gasket was tracked on a small kit — I was sitting down… I believe that I had a tambourine on the hi hat, but the kit was recorded distorted- Mark was over-driving the Neve console- it was tracked that way, not changed in mixing. [see ATCW for full discussion]

In a later post, Dougie clarified that “Gasket is me and Chris by the way, only a few takes at El Teatro, overdriven drum kit, direct to tape, not added in mixing. The great Mark Howard over drove the Neve console I think, no added distortions.”  Dougie also clarified that Chris played one of his Nationals on this track.

Big Sky/Gasket Merger

During the Dirt Floor tour (1998/99), Chris sometimes played a Big Sky Country/Gasket medley, often as an encore.  The first capture of the Big Sky/Gasket medley, very enthusiastically received by the audience, seems to be on 1998-03-21 in Austin, TX:

But the most awesome and most well-known merger is surely the one captured at Martyrs, which closes the Live at Martyrs’ album:

Here’s the last-known performance of this BSC/Gasket merger (2004-09-21 Club One, Montreal).  In late 2004, perhaps because of illness, Chris continued to close many shows with this combo; however, he often paused between BSC and Gasket, again perhaps because he lacked the energy to play for the 7+ minutes that merging these songs required.  Nonetheless, the audience response was enthusiastic.

A little extra ….

Thanks to Jaap Stiemer for calling my attention to this one.  Chris closes a show (De Smelt, Assen, Holland 1998-09-12) with a raucous take on Gasket, breaking two strings in the process:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.