Terrible sadness over an abortion led to All’s regretful “Birthday I.O.U.”

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 25, 1993

By Steve Newton

We’ve all heard stories about small-town folk who pull up roots and travel to Tinseltown in search of fame and fortune. Well, the members of Yankee rock band All put a new twist on that fabled routine. After years of plugging away as noted underground band the Descendants, they changed their name, packed up, and moved away from L.A., staking out new ground in a tiny Missouri town.

“L.A. has gotten pretty weird lately,” explains drummer and founding member Bill Stevenson, calling while on a pretour vacation in Colorado. “There’s an awful lot of crime, and it’s really degenerating badly. We basically wanted to get out of L.A. and move somewhere that was centrally located within the country. You know, we’re not Bon Jovi, but we are musicians and this is how we make our living, so it’s just very easy for us to live there, given what our income is. I mean, to illustrate how the economy works, we each pay $48 a month rent!”

After escaping the expensive danger of life in the so-called City of Angels, Stevenson and his mates ended up in the nonrocking burg of Brookfield, Missouri, population 4,000.

“Brookfield is literally just a farm town,” says Stevenson, whose band plays the Cruel Elephant on Saturday (November 27). “There’s no bands, no punkers, no college people. There’s no alternative anything—it’s just farmers and us. We’ve made some friends there, obviously, but when we actually moved there, there was a certain amount of culture shock on behalf of both parties.”

Stevenson is joined in the current version of All by guitarist Stephen Egerton and bassist Karl Alvarez—both of whom played with him in the Descendants—and new vocalist Chad Price, a 22-year-old from Kansas whose intense vocals score well on the ear-burning, amp-blasting tunes from the band’s latest release, Breaking Things. One song that immediately sets itself apart from the disc’s two-minute thrash-pop gems is the nine-second ditty “Strip Bar”, which Egerton wrote after getting tossed out of a peeler joint.

“Stephen likes to go to those places,” says Stevenson. “I actually find them sort of boring, but he likes them, and that’s one of the cooler things about this band—that everybody writes songs about whatever they’re into. We just tell it like it is, so our albums are kinda like our diary, you know.”

So what has Bill Stevenson, skin-basher extraordinaire, been writing in his diary lately? Judging by cathartic tunes such as “Shreen” and “Birthday I.O.U.”, he’s been taking the cleansing route in dealing with some serious personal matters.

“I just finished a relationship of eight-and-a-half years,” explains the burly, clean-cut rocker, “and the song ‘Shreen’ was just about us trying to salvage our thing—but we couldn’t. Her name is Serena, and I call her Shreen.

“And ‘Birthday I.O.U.’ is about an abortion that I was involved in, so that one’s kinda heavy. We decided to go ahead and have this abortion, and at the time we didn’t think too much about it—I mean it seemed like the only choice. But later on, like a year and a half later, I had all these really terrible feelings, so I figured I’d write about it. Sometimes if I write about something it organizes it for me and clears it and I’m able to get past it. So that’s why it’s called ‘Birthday I.O.U.’ I guess it’s kinda sad.”

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