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The Next Stage

Jimy Murphy, the Kamikazi Kid, gets his act together.

But the name was a hit -- so much so that by the end of that year, the band was officially known as the Kamikazi Klones.

Just as the Beatles had their Maharishi, the Klones had their own guru: Mark O'Brien -- "only he was a lot more fun," says Murphy. "He was the original Kamikazi, and went at life like a piranha on amphetamines. Anytime we went out with him, we had a great time and learned a lot...and it wasn't empty, hedonistic partying. He always seemed to unveil something that was there but we hadn't seen."

Within a year, the Klones had developed a large following up and down the Front Range. Their number-one fan was Steve Neal, who couldn't be lured to perform. Instead, he became the band's archivist, and often knew songs better than the musicians on stage did.

We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels; Murphy's grandfather's band (right).Enter, stage left: Jimy Murphy, performing with the Evergreen Players (top); a scene from Murphy's Heaven?s a Nude Beach, now playing in Evergreen (above); and Klones Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon taking off.Send in the klones: Jimy Murphy, still crazy after all these years.
John Johnston
We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels; Murphy's grandfather's band (right).Enter, stage left: Jimy Murphy, performing with the Evergreen Players (top); a scene from Murphy's Heaven?s a Nude Beach, now playing in Evergreen (above); and Klones Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon taking off.Send in the klones: Jimy Murphy, still crazy after all these years.
We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels.
We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels.

The band's song list was as eclectic as its members. It ranged from punked-up Bob Dylan ("Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man" played at quadruple speed, to the horror of purists and the delight of others) to Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Talking Heads, Graham Parker, the Kinks, the Who, the Rolling Stones and even an electrified version of "Secret Agent Man." And they borrowed from other bands; the words to Murphy's "Vampire" -- The demons that follow this man/Aren't even part of the plan/His sorrows that breed in the night/Run with the also-ran --worked with the music in David Bowie's "Panic in Detroit."

But some material was the Klones' own, including "Give Texas Back to the Mexicans," written after the Broncos lost the 1978 Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys:

...Give Texas back to the Mexicans

We shouldn't have stolen it anyhow

...Give Texas back to the Mexicans

Make Mexico Texaco now...

And then there was "Rich Punks," written for the Denver punk-rockers who snickered at the thought of a punk band coming from lily-white Evergreen: I'm a rich punk rocker every Saturday night/I got my hair slashed short and my nose packed tight/I'm cruising with the trash on the bad side of town/Looking for the girls that like to go down...

By 1980, the Klones were arguably the most popular band in Colorado. The bandmembers offered more than just music: They put on a show, highlighted by Murphy's frenetic, spinning, kicking, whirling-dervish dancing and theatrics, Hopkins's fiery lead guitar, and A.J. Coon, complete with shaved head and combat boots, shaking the walls with his bass. "We did what rock and roll is supposed to do," Murphy says. "We made people move."

For his part, the former theology major found being on stage a religious experience. "It was almost trance-like," he remembers. "No matter how wild I got, I couldn't be hurt...It was a communion with God and with the audience. It was an expression of who I am, and I fed off of it. I might have run myself into the ground so that I could barely walk onto the stage, but as soon as the lights went on and the music started, I had unlimited energy."

The Klones began opening for national acts at the Rainbow Music Hall and blowing crowds away. "If the Kamakazi Klones do make it on a national level, they'll be one of the most unique, creative groups to break out of this area," a Westword critic wrote in March 1980, after the Klones opened for the Motels. "And judging from their recent performance at the Rainbow, the group just may be able to fulfill those dreams in the not-too-distant future."

Everyone thought the band was on the verge of making it big -- and no one thought it more than the bandmembers themselves.

But just when it seemed that everything was going their way, tragedy struck. On July 9, 1980, Murphy and his girlfriend were visiting O'Brien at his cabin. As Murphy kept mentioning things they ought to do -- mountains to climb, shows to see -- O'Brien would just respond, "Yeah, you do that, Jimy." Then he leaned forward and said, "You're not doing your practices as you should. You're not doing your yoga. You're not meditating."

Murphy admitted it. But it was so hard to do those things when you were living the rock-and-roll lifestyle, he protested. The girls, the partying, the nights without sleep, the days without eating right.

Having said what he needed to say, O'Brien got up and walked out onto the porch with Murphy's girlfriend. He was holding a metal shotput in one hand when he told her, "It's right above us, right now."

Murphy heard the blast from the lightning bolt that exploded down from the clouds. Instantly, he knew what had happened. He ran outside and saw that his girlfriend had been knocked to the ground when the bolt struck O'Brien. "It was the funniest thing I have ever seen," Murphy says. "O'Brien was spread-eagled on his back, with his tongue sticking out and the hugest hard-on, which had absolutely torn his pants apart."

Although it was obvious O'Brien was dead, Murphy administered CPR -- burning his hands on the hot metal buttons of O'Brien's clothing -- until medical personnel arrived. "He was gone, but I saw his soul leave, I swear," Murphy remembers. "It was a real validation to me of the existence of the soul."

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