Inimitable punk rocker Bob Spasm, frontman for the riotous Blood Spasm—once hailed by the local press as Tucson’s biggest punk rock band—died on Aug. 9 after a struggle with multiple sclerosis.
Renowned for his on-stage histrionics, Bob “Spasm” McKinley formed Blood Spasm in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1983. A revised version of the band was a staple on Tucson’s punk scene, playing notorious shows mostly at house parties, warehouses and some local watering holes, from ‘85 until 1992. Even after disbanding, Blood Spasm continued to reunite and play semiannually at SpasmFest.
Blood Spasm released one album, which included the hardcore earworm, "We Got Cactus." McKinley told New Times in an interview (from Feb. 2012) that “he wrote the lyrics in about five minutes over a pitcher of beer at the Bay Horse Tavern.”
Spyder Rhodes (longtime Tucson DJ/musician) said, “For a local punk band, it was a hit.” Cowpunk legend Al Perry, who covered the song on his 2004 album Always a Pleasure, considers McKinley’s song to be the alpha and omega of songs that perfectly depicts life in Tucson.
Rhodes says, “Blood Spasm and my band [The Host] used to play together quite a bit. They were amazing to see live. Bob was a real nice guy, with an enormous personality and well-loved in the punk community.”
Outspoken, with punk ‘tude, McKinley stayed true to the playbook he embraced in his youth. “Playing punk rock in Tucson 20 years ago meant living the lifestyle, and sometimes paying the price for doing so. Today, punk rock is pretty much a safe thing. There's no penalty for being a punk rocker. You don't have to walk down the street and fear getting jumped and beat up all the time."
But behind the sneer and rapid-fire delivery in his performances, there was humor, gentleness and love of home. as evidenced in this excerpt from McKinley’s lyrics for “We Got Cactus”:
Spring without flowers is just as remorseful/
As an autumn denied the colored leaves fall/
Long is the winter when there's no snow/
And summer is painful when the wind won't blow/
Welcome to my home, no fear of pneumonia/
This is paradise, in Tucson, Arizona.
Bob “Spasm” McKinley was 57.
Al Perry's cover of Blood Spasm's "We Got Cactus":