Dark Star

In Houston’s Jacinto City suburb, a Dark Star formed in 1976 around a crew of nicknamed 20-somethings. Vocalist, guitar player, and songwriter “Major” Tom Lazer née Howell borrowed liberally from Bowie’s astronaut, while guitarist Bobby “Wizard” Parker’s Merlin-ish long hair renamed him. Bill “The Android” Fisher played bass and had a forehead like Frankenstein’s monster; and James “Stix” Bowen’s name explains itself. After about a year’s existence, Dark Star brought Lazer originals “Spectre” and “Sounds of the Sun” to Dusty Dickerson Studio, 1514 Mercury Drive, on March 23, 1977. Of the 1,000 resulting 45s, Lazer himself carted 750 copies door-to-door, shaking hands and handing out his band’s propulsive, demon-haunted proto-punk sounds to mystified citizens—a bizarre effort at promotion, considering the Dark Star-labeled record’s scant informational content. Plus, that Dark Star appellation confused plenty about the band’s connection to California psych stalwarts the Grateful Dead—despite the fact that Lazer had named his band in-studio after a Dark Star Plumbing van just so happened to drive past.

Dickerson’s facility also housed Dusty’s Hospitality Club, better known as the Hostility Club, for frequently playing host to fistfights. Dark Star would’ve debuted on that stage, had all but Lazer gotten understandable stagefright. Circa 1979, the band punished crowds at a 72-hour music marathon staged at Texas Tapes and Records’ enormous parking lot, collecting two grand a night for their efforts, most of which got plowed straight into equipment upgrades. Later, Dark Star even made it to the famed Gilley’s of Pasadena, Texas. But as the ‘70s waned, “Wizard” Parker’s drug habit transformed him into the band’s soundman, while “Android” Fisher faded into wifeand- kids domesticity. Though the persona in “Major” Tom Lazer’s “Spectre” lyric would simply “laugh at the thought of dying...and spend all my time flying,” a 1999 spinal cord injury to the real “Major” Tom finally grounded Dark Star, loosing Lazer to a creative supernova explosion of sci-fi film and TV scripts.

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