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It's easily one of the best album titles ever conceived. But the story behind Chung King Can Suck It, the would-be first LP from NYC hardcore heroes Judge, is fraught with disappointment. Even if the result is one of the rarest and most expensive albums in hardcore history.
Our tale begins in New York City in 1987, when two members of the popular hardcore group Youth of Today — guitarist John Porcell and drummer Sammy Siegler — formed a side band with bassist Jimmy Yu and former Youth of Today member Mike Ferraro. Judge ramped up Youth of Today's straight-edge lyrics to even more militant levels and sawed-off metallic riffs in a way that would lay the foundation for future clean-living crusaders like Earth Crisis.
After releasing their first seven-inch in 1988 on Porcell's own Schism Records, Judge signed on with burgeoning California hardcore label Revelation Records before hitting Chung King Studios to record their full-length debut. Located upstairs from Chung King's Chinese restaurant near New York City's Chinatown, the studio was dubbed "Chung King's House of Metal" by producer Rick Rubin — an allusion to the restaurant downstairs, studio owner John King and the hard-rock and punk bands that recorded there before Rubin started bringing in future rap stars Run-DMC, LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys to track their classic albums.
By 1989, Porcell and Siegler were already familiar with Chung King — it's where they'd recorded the third Youth of Today album, 1988's We're Not in This Alone. But when they arrived to track the first Judge LP, they were assigned an engineer whom they later described as a "full-blown cocaine addict" — which was especially disconcerting, given Judge's collective attitude towards drugs. When said engineer didn't show up one day, Judge were forced to work with a replacement engineer who was unfamiliar with hardcore. Thus, the production credit on Chung King Can Suck It is listed as "He Who Can Suck It."
Here's where the plot thickens. Porcell and Siegler flew off to Europe for a Youth of Today tour almost immediately after the Judge recording sessions. They brought cassette copies of the Chung King tapes with them and decided the recording quality was not up to snuff. A call home to Ferraro confirmed the same. But by now, Revelation had already paid the pressing plant for the plating of the vinyl stampers, which was the point of no return for the record. Stuck between a large bill and a bummed-out band, Revelation pressed 100 copies of the LP on white vinyl to satisfy advance orders for Judge's debut LP. The plant did a 10 percent overrun, resulting in 110 copies.
When Porcell and Siegler returned from Europe, they scheduled another recording session at Normandy Studios in Rhode Island — where the Cro-Mags had tracked Best Wishes — to re-record their debut LP. The new version was entitled Bringin' It Down and featured the song "Where It Went," written after the Chung King debacle, in place of two songs — "Holding On" and "No Apologies" — from the original sessions.
The punchline to all this? Original copies of Chung King Can Suck It are worth a bundle. In March 2015, a copy sold on Discogs for $6,428.59, becoming the most expensive sale ever recorded on the site until it was surpassed by a David Bowie record the following year.
Put that in your pipe and suck it.