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On this day in 1970, Black Sabbath invented heavy metal
02.13.2017
06:04 pm

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Music

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This morning I was alerted to the fact that the first Black Sabbath album was unveiled upon this world like an evil curse on this day 47 years ago. Try to imagine what kind of experience it was when someone first whacked Black Sabbath onto their turntable in 1970. There had never before been such a purposefully infernal-sounding racket in rock at that point and it set such a high watermark so as to almost never (ever?) have been topped in that category. Black Sabbath was radical, primal, primitive and quite unprecedented. The young group’s formula—Dennis Wheatley/Hammer Horror meets Cream/Vanilla Fudge—was ingenious and yet dumb enough to please the cheap seats.

What must Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath‘s opening track “Black Sabbath” have sounded like when people got their first taste of the group? To properly appreciate how truly radical this must’ve been coming at you like a rock to the head just as the Sixties had ended—flower power this was definitely not—you’d really have to mentally erase the decades of imitators who have come since, which is difficult to do. If you trace heavy metal down to its root moment, its true moment of birth, it was when these four guys in their early twenties happened upon this sound:
 

 
At the time of the song’s composition, the group was still named Earth, which they knew they had to change due to another band already using it. When they noticed long lines waiting to get into a Boris Karloff film called Black Sabbath across the street from their rehearsal studio, they wondered if the punters would also line up for a sort of heavy horror rock. The band was renamed Black Sabbath and gained a new direction and winning formula that would make them famous and wealthy faster than a pact with Satan.
 

 
Writing at On This Deity, the Arch Drude Julian Cope had this to say about the album:

Cannily clad by their record company in a self-consciously Wiccan outer package more fustily archaic and holy than modern “secular” postwar New Testaments could ever have dared to be, and possessed at its centre of an enormous inverted cross, BLACK SABBATH summoned the ears of the Hippie Generation’s little brothers and dragged them jerking into the cold light of the 1970s. The Downer had begun.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Was Groucho Marx’s famous anthem ‘Hooray for Captain Spaulding’ actually a celebration of cocaine?
02.13.2017
12:42 pm

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Drugs
Movies
Music

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Rule of thumb, the earlier a Marx Brothers movie was made, the better it probably is. The initial impulse of the brothers’ manic energy and inventive wordplay was difficult to reproduce as time wore on, although they did make seven first-rate Marx Brothers movies before tailing off (the last really good one being A Day at the Races from 1937). 

The first two Marx Brothers movies were The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), and both were based on successful Broadway musicals. Monkey Business from 1931 was the first script that was originally developed to be filmed by a Hollywood studio, that being Paramount.

For my money, Animal Crackers might be the quintessential Marx Brothers movie. Groucho plays an African explorer named Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, and the movie opens with a bang when four African men carry Capt. Spaulding into a hoity-toity gala party in a sedan chair. Groucho immediately breaks into “Hello, I Must Be Going,” which prompts the entire chorus, including Margaret Dumont and Zeppo, to break into “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” in which Groucho actually doesn’t do much singing, he mainly does funny dances between the choruses.

The song was written for the stage musical by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby in 1928. Interesting choice for a name, “Captain Spaulding,” because that name was actually associated with a cocaine dealer who had gotten into serious legal trouble a few years earlier. It’s hard to project back in time to know what it meant to name a Groucho Marx character Captain Spaulding, but it seems a fair supposition that for certain ears, the phrase “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” might essentially have been the equivalent of “Hooray, my coke dealer is here!”

Who was this original Captain Spaulding? For that we turn to the tragic life of one of Hollywood’s early stars, Wallace Reid, who had appeared in D.W. Griffith’s two most famous movies, Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, but was better known as a romantic lead in movies like Carmen (1915) and The Affairs of Anatol (1921). After suffering a serious injury in a train wreck in 1923, he became addicted to morphine and passed away at the age of 31.

In his biography Wallace Reid: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol, E.J. Fleming described the drug scene in the silent era as follows:
 

Drugs were plentiful and expensive. Stars used them to cure hangovers from “bathtub gin” or from fruit punch laced with 200-proof alcohol. The bigger dealers concentrated on a single studio and used a network of low-level studio employees as paid couriers. “Mr. Fix-It” served Fox, “the Man” and “Captain Spaulding” at Lasky. “Spaulding” was once arrested for selling drugs but when he threatened to name names the charges were dropped.

 
So one of the main drug dealers in Hollywood used the name “Captain Spaulding” in Hollywood, but there was also an incident in Paris in 1920 that gave the name a strong association with cocaine. Olive Thomas was a silent film actress who died in 1920 at the age of 24 of acute nephritis caused by accidental poisoning. Her death was eventually declared accidental, but her sudden hospitalization and initially mysterious death ensured that her case would be headline fodder for weeks. A man with the name of “Spalding” was connected to the case, and actually was given a prison sentence for smuggling cocaine into France. As the New York Herald reported on September 6, 1920: 
 

American is Imprisoned for Smuggling Cocaine
                         
    An American who gives his name as Spalding has been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for smuggling cocaine into Paris from Germany.  The supply, which amounted to four kilogrammes, was concealed in a trunk which went astray and was sent to the depot for lost articles.
    Here, after several days, it was claimed by Spalding, who declared to the Customs’ officers that it contained nothing of a dutiable nature, a statement which was disproved upon examination.  In his defense, Spalding stated that the trunk had been consigned to him by a friend, one Mrs. Green, from Mainz.

 
This “American named Spalding” actually was a captain and was referred to as such in an article that appeared a week later.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Devil’s Jukebox: Why Big Stick is the greatest rock n’ roll band OF ALL TIME (if you ask me)
02.13.2017
10:31 am

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Music
Punk

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The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to realize that Big Stick might be the greatest rock n’ roll band OF ALL TIME. I mean, I can’t think of anybody better. Could the Beatles write a song as visionary as “Do Not Rape My Sister At the Municipal Pool” or as nuanced as “Girls on the Toilet”? Well, even if they could’ve they certainly fucking didn’t, I’ll tell you that much. Big Stick did.

Big Stick slithered up from the NYC art-rock underground in the mid-80s like brightly colored lizards, worlds apart both stylistically and sonically from the noise-damage darlings of the junkie punk scene they emerged from—Pussy Galore, Reverb Motherfuckers, White Zombie—or their high profile big mean daddies in Sonic Youth, the Swans, or Foetus. Sure, they were just as druggy, and probably even snottier than their deathtripping brethren, but they had style, and a sense of showmanship long abandoned by the then-reigning Feedback Mafia. Sorta like the more playful, less genocidal version of Jim Thirlwell and Lydia Lunch, John Gill and Yanna Trance were a live-work-fuck-kill together couple who brewed up their crazed sonic schemes in their very own secret headquarters, explaining little and revealing even less. They performed wearing elaborate masks, and all known press photos were similarly mysterious affairs, shrouding their true identities in a veil of feathers and wigs and antlers. It was crazy but sexy, and the secret-squirrel gag was the perfect compliment to their bizarre cut and paste electro-skronk.
 

 
The music that Big Stick played simply did not exist before they did, and whether directly or otherwise, their dizzying, junkdustrial, urban warfare psychedelia was the seminal first step in what became a whole host of so-hip-it-hurts rock sub-genres in the ensuing decades. Their abrasive pastiche of distorto-punk guitars, drawling slacker-rap, and cheapjack drum machine beats was pretty much the blueprint for the electroclash movement that made Satanic superstars out of Peaches and A.R.E. Weapons. The concept of a two-man (or woman) primitive blues-punk racket, pioneering when Big Stick did it, is now a guaranteed recipe for at least fifteen minutes of rock radio-baiting success. Disco punk was their thing too, way before Electric Six took a trip to the gay bar.  If being a dozen years ahead of your time was at all profitable, then Gill and Trance would be zillionaires by now. But it’s not, is it?

More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
‘Train vs Elephant’: New music from The Residents
02.10.2017
09:59 am

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Music

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If you count back to the release of their first single, “Santa Dog,” The Residents have been releasing work for 45 years. It’s amazing to ponder, almost half a century of continuous innovative productivity, in music, film/video, and interactive digital media.

Their initial burst of creativity resulted in a run of deeply weird and absolutely wonderful releases culminating in 1979 with the definitive opus Eskimo or in 1980 with the definitive opus The Commercial Album, depending on who you ask (I’m on team Commercial Album, if you’re keeping a tally). In the ‘80s, they embraced the BIG IDEAS that would define the rest of their career, most notably embarking on the multi-LP “Mole Trilogy.” In the ‘90s, they reached a commercial peak with three universally acclaimed CD ROM “albums”—fully interactive music and video projects that hybridized concept albums, video games, and animated films. In the 21st Century they’ve settled into a long string of conceptual releases that started with 1998’s Wormwood, wherein the band tackled THE BIBLE.

The Residents’ album concepts have often revolved around getting into the heads of the marginalized—they did a CD ROM about sideshow freaks (Freak Show), an online interactive missing-person mystery (The Bunny Boy), a first-person narrative of a sexual predator (Tweedles). So it was a surprise to learn that their new album would be about something as comparatively prosaic as train accidents. The band discovered a trove of turn-of-the-20th-Century news articles about the dangers of train travel, and, struck by the contrast between the eloquent expressiveness of the era’s newspaper writing and the utter mayhem of the events described, they conceived The Ghost of Hope. The album includes contributions from keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman, whose weirdomusic bona fides are enviable—he’s served with Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, and the Pixies, among many, many others.
 

 
It’s Dangerous Minds’ privilege today to share that new album’s track “Train vs Elephant.” Though the title would seem to be a straightforward enough description, we nevertheless reached out to the band for comment, and were treated to an exegesis by Homer Flynn, the Residents’ longtime spokesman and graphic designer, whose tenacious insistence that he’s not their singer has been widely disbelieved for about as long as he’s been their press mouthpiece.

TRAIN VS ELEPHANT

September 17, 1894

At the time of this strange incident, the railway line connecting Teluk Anson and Tapa, in the western part of Malaysia had recently been completed, so exposure to train travel was relatively new. Several years later, a Malaysian man recalled the time in his youth when he found a sign shrouded in the undergrowth on the outskirts of his town: “THERE IS BURIED HERE A WILD ELEPHANT WHO IN DEFENSE OF HIS HERD CHARGED AND DERAILED A TRAIN ON THE 17th DAY OF OF SEPTEMBER 17, 1894.”

Curious, the man researched the incident, speaking to several people old enough to remember the suicidal encounter between the train and the elephant. Some felt the bull was seeking revenge for the death of a calf recently killed by the same train, while others felt the event was purely a territorial dispute with the elephant defending its turf from the newly invading “Metal Monster.”

The British engineer claimed the beast had staked its spot in the center of the tracks and no warning deterred its determined charge as the train thundered down the track at a speed of fifty miles an hour. While the impact of the crash killed the elephant, the bull did successfully derail the engine and three coaches.

 
Have a listen to new music from the Residents, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The Nihilist Spasm Band invented noise rock in 1965
02.10.2017
09:07 am

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Art
Music

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Back when most kids their age were in the throes of Beatlemania, an octet of Canadian art-nerds calling themselves The Nihilist Spasm Band rewired the whole notion of popular music for their own twisted ends and created one of the most alarming cacophonies imaginable, especially when you consider they formed in a musical landscape dominated by Elvis, the Beach Boys, and Herman’s Hermits.
 

 
There were a couple of unique elements at work with Nihilist Spasm. For one, all of their music was improvised. Aside from vocals, everything they recorded was a first (and last) take, and every live performance is spontaneous. No piece has ever been played twice, at least not in the same way. Secondly, they created their own instruments, or at least modified standard instruments until they were thoroughly unrecognizable. Perhaps their most infamous re-invention is the electric kazoo. Retrofitted with hearing-aid mics stuffed inside its tinny shell, the tuneless bleating of this unholy creation is one of the band’s greatest gifts to humanity.

Their first widely-released album, 1968’s No Record, is a wild, ear-searing wall of chaotic fuck-noise that seems impossible given its time frame (Harry Partch meets The Boredoms was a pretty original concept for the era, you must admit). Naturally, it became a murky underground cult favorite quietly influencing 80’s noiseniks like Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten, and KK Null. In fact, they were (and still are) huge in Japan. Well, relatively. They call them the “Rolling Stones of noise” there, at least. In 2000, there was even a documentary released about the band. I mean they’re still completely and hopelessly obscure, sure, but they had a few pops of fame here and there.
 

 
And here’s the really crazy thing: they’re still together. Fifty years on and the band still tours with an almost all-original line-up (two members of the founding group, Hugh McIntyre and Greg Curnoe, passed away in 2004 and 1992 respectively), and still play blindingly loud on crazy modified scream machines made to confuse and terrify in equal fistfuls. They’ve opened for Sonic Youth and jammed with REM and if the recent announcement of their upcoming Sonic Protest Tour is any indication, their reign of chaotic improvised terror isn’t over yet. Not bad for a group of 70-something Canadians who still haven’t learned how to tune a guitar in 50 years.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
KISS is selling air guitar strings!
02.10.2017
08:57 am

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Amusing
Music

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This is some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever seen: KISS air guitar strings. You heard me. KISS is selling bags of oxygen to people for $3.99 a pop. What’s worse is they’re apparently selling like Pet Rocks.

Metalsucks sums up their value nicely:

These strings are precision manufactured to the highest standards and most exacting specifications to ensure consistency, optimum performance, and long life. KISS Air Guitar Strings are made from nothing wrapped around more nothing, with specially tempered nothing-plated high carbon nothing, producing a well-balanced tone for your air guitar. Gauges .000, .000, .000, .000, .000, and .000. And best of all, they’re only four bucks for a pack of none! WHAT AN AMAZING VALUE!!! That’s a great use of four dollars and is definitely not just throwing your money away.

If people are stupid enough to buy this “merchandise,” I say take their money and run! You deserve to lose your four bucks!

So far, these air guitar strings are only available in Las Vegas. I looked on KISS’ website and couldn’t find them.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Move’s Magnetic Waves of Sound (or ‘The Move: Most Underrated Band of All Freaking Time?’)
02.09.2017
03:26 pm

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Music

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The Move was probably the biggest British group of the late 60s/early 70s who utterly failed to make any sort of impression on the American market. Nearly every biography written about them begins that way as if it’s the most important thing about the Move. It’s not, although it does provide a bit of (perhaps necessary) context. In England the Move had nine top 20 hits and was arguably ranked just below the Who (and just above the Pretty Things) in terms of pop group popularity. In the US however the Move never really made a dent in the charts, and are recalled—if they are recalled much at all—more as the predecessor to the Electric Light Orchestra, or merely a footnote in that band’s story, than for their own merits. It’s rare to find a Move album when you are crate digging on this side of the pond.

It’s true, in America still to this day the Move would be considered downright obscure, but on (very, very rare) occasion (as in almost never), one does meet a total Roy Wood fanatic. In fact, I used to work with a nerdy guy who pretty much listened only to Wood’s various incarnations (The Move, early ELO, Wizzard, and solo)—along with Be Bop Deluxe/Bill Nelson, Todd Rundgren, and Kate Bush—to the exclusivity of all other music. He had very specific tastes that guy, but God bless ‘im, he truly knew what he liked. And as such, this weirdo was the perfect ultimate Roy Wood fanboy. That he was from Florida shows you how hard he had to work for it.
 

 
The Move‘s original five-piece line-up formed in 1965 when teenaged guitarist Roy Wood (the band’s principle songwriter), drummer Bev Bevan, bassist Ace Kefford, vocalist Carl Wayne (older than the rest of them) and guitarist Trevor Burton “moved” from the ranks of several other semi-successful Birmingham-based bands to play together in a new Brummie “supergroup.” Like a heavier Hollies, four of the quintet were capable of handling vocals and although golden-throated Carl Wayne tended to take the lead, they also switched off that everyone got a turn in the spotlight. They were managed, first by Moody Blues manager Tony Secunda—who dressed the Move in Mod gangster suits, hired strippers for their stage act and got the band a residency at the Marquee club in London—and then later by a proper gangster, the notorious Don Arden, father of Sharon Osbourne, the former manager of Small Faces.

During one of their Marquee dates the group caused a fire after they’d smashed some television sets onstage with an ax. Three fire engines showed up to fight the blaze, inspiring front page headlines and the subject matter for a future hit single. Then Secunda, without consulting with the group, devised a controversial marketing campaign for the “Flowers in the Rain” single—the first record to be played on BBC Radio 1 and their third consecutive top five hit of 1967—consisting of a postcard depicting Prime Minister Harold Wilson in bed with his secretary. Wilson brought litigation against the Move for Secunda’s actions, which he won costing them—specifically Roy Wood who wrote the number and had nothing to do with the publicity stunt—their royalties for the hit, which were donated to charity. This led to Secunda’s firing and Arden’s hiring. In fall of 1967, the group took part in a two-week-long concert package tour around the UK, playing twice a night with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd and the Nice.
 

 
One major reason the Move never broke the American market is that they never toured here. They tried to—opening two shows for the Stooges before things fell apart—but it was a demoralizing disaster. Another reason might be their overt “Englishness” which would have been a turn off to many American rock fans at the time. The Move were as British as Marmite and Coronation Street, and in that sense, their singles provide the blueprint for much of the British rock that came in their wake—obviously glam rock, but prog (they were incorporating classical music bits earlier than anyone save for Bee Bumble and the Stingers), punk (the bassline in “God Save the Queen” was based on “Fire Brigade”) and 90s Britpop. It’s quite easy to hear their influence on Blur, for instance.
 

 
Magnetic Waves of Sound is the title of a new must-own Move compilation that has just been put out via Cherry Red’s heroic Esoteric Recordings label. Aside from perhaps the very best sounding versions of their hits on CD that I’ve ever heard—half in punchy mono—there is a second disc, a DVD, consisting of German and UK television performances from between 1967 and 1970 including their extended set on Colour Me Pop in 1969. All of these videos are presented in exceptionally good quality and they sound great, too. If this set doesn’t make you an instant Move fan, well, fuck you then, you’ve got shit taste in music.

And don’t try to tell me that KISS didn’t base their entire sound on the stomp-all-over-yer-face “Brontosaurus,” because they so obviously fucking did. (And just where do you think Paul Stanley got his “starchild” look from? Come on.)

Something else from The Move, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Fuse: Rick Nielsen’s awesome pre-Cheap Trick psychedelic rock band
02.09.2017
10:50 am

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Heroes
Music

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An early shot of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen.
 
Long before he helped Cheap Trick take over the world by way of Budokan, guitarist Rick Nielsen recorded a record with another Rockford, Illinois band called Fuse. Originally going by the name The Grim Reapers, Nielson was instrumental in convincing another Rockford band Toast and Jam to join forces and Fuse were born from that rock and roll union sometime in 1968.

According to Nielson, he had already secured a record contract at the time Fuse was coming together and they recorded a couple of singles on Smack Records in 1969, “Hound Dog” and “Cruisin for Burgers.” Fuse drummer Chip Greenman recalls that their manager at the time, Ken Adamany, had been pitching the band to different labels hoping to land them a record deal. Later that year—and again according to Greenman—Fuse scored the opening slot for a Fleetwood Mac gig in Chicago. Luckily Mort Hoffman, who was doing A&R for Epic Records was in the audience and told the band that he had to sign them. As all of the members of Fuse had yet to turn 21, their first record contract was signed by their fathers in July of 1969. Awww. Here’s more from Nielson on the early days of Fuse—whose name came about at the insistence of Epic as a requirement in order to finalize their record deal:

The guys we were with were all superior musicians—they’re probably in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame now. Tom and I had the stick-to-it-iveness and positive thinking to know what we wanted to do, so we split the band and went off to hang out in England. That Fuse stuff was my finest work. We stand by it and wished Cheap Trick played that well!

Fuse would record their only self-titled album in 1970 and it is full of loud, raucous psychedelically tinged rock with Nielson’s ever present guitar squalls raining down throughout its eight tracks. With influences from The Yardbirds and Cream, there isn’t a single jam on the record that isn’t rock solid.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
DEVO sings “Head Like A Hole”
02.08.2017
10:10 pm

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Music

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There was, perhaps, not much to love about the 1996 soundtrack to the Jackie Chan vehicle Supercop, but—as you could also have said, justly, in defense of the 1983 soundtrack to the Dan Aykroyd vehicle Doctor Detroit—there was at least this: two brand-new tracks from DEVO were etched in its grooves. The pride of Akron contributed the theme song, “Supercop,” and an interpretation of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole.” These were, I believe, the first new recordings they released in the nineties.

The Clinton years were not a total famine for the dutiful spudboy; there were opportunities to see DEVO play, and there was even the DEVO CD-ROM game that sucked away months of my life I probably should have spent learning to write code, speak Italian, or build pipe bombs. But no matter how rosy those days look from our current perspective, that period was not so great for the DEVO fan, either. Jerry Casale put his finger on it at a 1999 show in Universal City, observing from the stage that, pace Prince, it would actually have been more fun to party like it was 1981, because back then there had been plenty of good cocaine, and you could still get a blowjob without going to jail (a reference to l’affaire Lewinsky).
 

 
As much as I like NIN records, Trent Reznor’s persona and lyrical concerns have presented obstacles to my entertainment now and again, over the years. I have a lot of thoughts about why this is, and I will expound upon them at length if you buy me a beer, but it probably comes down to a preference for the satirical over the confessional mode. In other words, because DEVO tends to place the emphasis on others’ stupidity rather than their own hurt feelings, they can sing “Head Like A Hole” without sounding merely aggrieved.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Unsung surf rock girl group The Trashwomen RULE
02.08.2017
11:54 am

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Heroes
Music

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San Francisco area surf queens, The Trashwomen.

The great Dave Crider of Estrus Records knew what he was doing when he signed San Francisco area girl group The Trashwomen to the label back in the early 90s. The group was originally conceived as a kind of one-off thing when they were asked to perform a live set of covers by 60s Minneapolis teen rockers The Trashmen. The glue for the concept was the talent of long-time smoking hot guitarist Elka “Kitten Kaboodle” Zolot who joined forces with Tina “Boom Boom” Lucchesi on drums and Dannielle “Lead Pedal” Pimm on bass—neither of which could play their assigned instruments at the time. Four weeks later the day of the gig arrived and according to those who were there to see it, their fledgling show was a success. 

The Trashwomen quickly released a couple of singles before getting picked up by Estrus that was already home to bands such as The Mummies; New York fuzz-freaks The Mooney Suzuki; Southern Culture on the Skids; and one best bands to ever come out of Bellingham, Washington (led by Crider himself), Mono Men. Sometime during their existence, the girls crowned themselves the “Queens of Tease Rock” and Zolot’s powerful riffs added an extra layer of cool to The Trashwomen’s smutty lyrics, like their nod to the usefulness of sex toys, “Batteries.” Playing up their tough vibe, the band was all about cultivating an image of a pin-up girl gang gone bad. Who instead of running away with the band, stole their fucking instruments and started their own groovy group.

Much more after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
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