Shut Up, Little Man!

Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

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“Smells Like Teen Cocksuckers” — Kurt Cobain enshrines Raymond Huffman in song

pukey t-shirt
Pukey shirt segment included in 1st comic printing

As noted previously, Johan Kugelberg contacted me in 1992 about formally releasing the Shut Up Little Man recordings on CD. At the time Kugelberg was working for Matador Records, and at the time Matador was among the preeminent indie labels, releasing the likes of Pavement, Liz Phair, The Fall, Superchunk and Teenage Fan Club. Johan created an off-shoot label to release Shut Up Little Man in 1993. As Johan began to actively promote and distribute Shut Up Little Man, he and I would talk about once every three or four weeks. One day in late 1993 Johan called to tell me that he had spent the previous evening with Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. Knowing Kurt’s penchant for things punky and obscure, Johan had personally stuck a copy of Shut Up Little Man in Cobain’s hands. Kurt noted to Johan that he had heard about the tapes through some friends in Seattle, namely Steve Fisk and Tad Doyle. Steve Fisk was (and is) a sound engineer, a musician, and one of the early producers of Nirvana and several other soon-to-be Grunge superstars (Soundgarden, Screaming Trees) on the Seattle music scene. It so happened that Fisk was also a big fan of Shut Up Little Man and had even christened his pet cat “Raymond Huffman” after the beloved little man.

Fisk maintained a studio in the legendary SCUD building, a sort of artist’s co-op in the pre-gentrification days of Seattle’s Belltown along with other fringe artists, including Ashleigh Talbot (who designed the Shut Up Little Man t-shirt and the cover illustration for the second edition of the CD). Steve Fisk had also aided in the creation of the first Shut Up Little Man comic book published by Tedium House in 1992; each copy of this edition of the comic book had a little clear plastic envelope stapled inside that enclosed the pocket area from an old plaid shirt with fake puke on it. This was in honor of the often-addled Raymond Huffman who was known to vomit on himself and then to let it dry without changing clothes or bothering to clean off the puke! Fisk had once told me that he had helped mix up the fake puke with a friend. Subsequently, they globbed little pools of fake puke onto pieces of shirt fabric and then stapled them into plastic baggies to be enclosed within the comic books. The other person Kurt noted was sometimes touring mate Tad Doyle, titanic frontman for the gritty and great self-named Seattle band Tad. Tad was (and is) an earnest Shut Up Little Man fan. As reported in Spin magazine: when asked what it was that Tad's band listened to in the tour van, Tad relayed that they listened endlessly to Peter and Raymond rants. Soon after Johan had told me about the Cobain incident, word got back to Johan that Kurt had loved the CD and was inspired by the content of Shut Up Little Man to reference it in a song entitled “Dough, Ray, and Me.” Johan called to tell me of this sometime in March of 1994. So, when Cobain passed in April 1994, I was at least a little disappointed that I would never get a chance to hear the lyrics or the song inspired in part by Shut Up Little Man. Fortunately, some thoughtful Peter and Raymond fans sent me a recording that featured an acoustic version of “Dough, Ray, and Me.”

The lyrics are typical Cobain — simple, abstract, and nihilistic. They reflect the sort of hate-filled negative atmosphere of the Pete and Ray experience as well as suggest Peter's plea of ‘Shut up’ with the phrase ‘Just be quiet.’ The lyrics also present the obvious name-check of “Ray,” of course, but beyond that there is the unmistakable reference to the little man and his legendary hobby of puking on himself:

Those years in his vomit
A phrase from his pocket
And chains holding the wind, I won’t be
Dough, Ray, Me

On their way
Just be quiet
Follow hate
Read me 
Dough, Ray, me

In interviews after Cobain’s death Courtney Love referred to the song as “Dough, Ray, and Me;“ she noted that it was the last song that Kurt wrote and that it had the aching beauty of something off The Beatles' White Album. According to interviews, band histories, and various fan sites, the early versions of this song were all entitled “Dough, Ray, and Me“ and featured these same words as the repeated chorus. But, in the last two months of Cobain's life, the unfinished song continued to evolve. Love noted that after Kurt's overdose in Italy Cobain toyed with the idea of changing the song title to “Me and My IV.“ There are three versions of “Dough, Ray, and Me” in extant in bootleg form , but only one version of the song—now, for some reason, re-entitled “Do, Re, and Mi“—is officially available on the post-humus Nirvana box set. Who knows how the song would have mutated and what the song may have been named if Kurt Cobain had lived to formally record the song for a studio release. It is clear, however, that Raymond Huffman had planted some bad seeds in the already shady mind garden of one of the towering figures of pop music history.