Su Tissue on the cover of Slash Magazine, 1979
They don’t make them like this anymore. One of the great Californian punk/new wave bands, Suburban Lawns was formed by singers, multi-instrumentalists and CalArts students Su Tissue and Vex Billingsgate in 1978. Joining with drummer Chuck Roast and guitarists Frankie Ennui and John Gleur—in Long Beach, of all places—they called themselves the Fabulons and Art Attack before choosing the name Suburban Lawns.
A former Doors roadie named E.J. Emmons produced their first two self-released singles, “Gidget Goes to Hell” and “Janitor,” as well as their classic self-titled album on IRS. It is an outrage against common sense, basic decency and public opinion that this stone masterpiece has languished out of print for decades. The band’s final EP, Baby, also enriches collectors’ hoards.
I don’t have any evidence that Ray Manzarek ever said “Su Tissue was a shaman,” but if he didn’t say it, I bet he wished he had. For my money, she is the single most fascinating and enigmatic figure of the West Coast punk scene, Darby Crash be damned. Tissue released a solo album of piano recordings called Salon de Musique in 1984, after Suburban Lawns broke up, but her trail runs cold following an appearance in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. (Demme and Jack Cummins had co-directed a video for “Gidget Goes to Hell” that Saturday Night Live aired in 1980.) Wherever she is, I hope she’s enjoying her studiously showbiz-free life.
There’s not a lot of the group represented on YouTube. Here’s the gorgeous video for “Janitor,” directed by Denise Gallant, a video graphics pioneer who invented an analog video synthesizer in the 1970s. It may not seem like it now, but when this came out, it was positively high tech-looking!
More Suburban Lawns after the jump…