Derf Scratch and Susan J. Miller Remembered

Frederick Milner, better known as Derf Scratch, bass player for Fear from 1977 to 1982, passed away on July 28 after a long battle with an unspecified illness. Scratch was an original founding member of the legendary punk band, formed with vocalist/guitarist Lee Ving in 1977. The Los Angeles band are probably most notoriously remembered for their controversial performance on the 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live, at the request of punk-rock fan John Belushi. Fear went on to perform the most offensive/awesome tunes possible—“I Don’t Care About You,” “Beef Balogna”—peppered with the most offensive/awesome language possible. The whole thing was topped off by a slew of bused-in punkers (which included Minor Threat/Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and Belushi himself) slam-dancing around the band onstage, eventually destroying the set. The entire thing was cut short after the band jumped to “Let’s Have a War.”

Fear released their debut album, The Record, in 1982. Scratch was “let go” from the band soon after touring in promotion of the album. While not much is known about Scratch in the public eye post-Fear, his MySpace music page’s “About Derf Scratch” section reads, “On Wednesday, May 24, 2006, Derf played a set with his new band, the Werewolfs, at the Mint in Hollywood. On the way home from that show, he was in a very serious car accident, but he’s fine now. He says to one and all, ‘Eat my fuck with love.’”

Mike Watt remembers Derf Scratch: “I bought my first Fender bass from Derf. I recorded Minutemen’s ‘What Makes a Man Start Fires’ with that precision bass and probably more, but that one for sure—he let it go for tiny monies! . . . I have nothing but good thoughts about him because he always showed me respect, so respect back. It broke my heart when I heard the sad news. . . . I felt we lost another brother. We must be more intense before we lose more!” From a July 31 Heard Mentality post by Vickie Chang.

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Singer/songwriter and Long Beach native Susan J. Paul was battling cancer for the second time when she decided to give a special performance at the GoGirlsMusicFest inside the Liquid Lounge in October 2005.

Besides wanting to support the Lynne Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research, Paul was moving product: her fourth album, Big Love.

The Christian performer passed away on July 19. She was only 48.

Human Factor, her 1991 debut album, was reissued in 2007. Upon its initial release, veteran LA disc jockey Jim Ladd and KTWV (The Wave) music director Ralph Stewart hailed her as an impressive new talent, while critics across the country compared her with Rickie Lee Jones. Human Factor rose to No. 7 on the Adult Contemporary Charts, right behind Sting’s Soul Cages.

Paul went on to open for Etta James and Cassandra Wilson; tour with Graham Nash, David Wilcox and jazz guitarist Grant Geissman; and regularly headlined Santa Monica’s At My Place. From an Aug. 2 post by Matt Coker.

This column appeared in print as “R.I.P.”

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