While the name of Düsseldorf band The Fred Banana Combo might sound more like something you’d come across in a bargain bin at your local record shop, don’t let their amusing moniker fool you as it appears the somewhat obscure band was responsible for releasing what has often been classified as “the very first independent punk/new wave single” to come out in Germany in 1978. The single contained two hot tracks, “No Destination Blues” and the in-your-face “Jerk off All Night Long.”
The band were one of many that played legendary Düsseldorf punk club the Ratinger Hof in the 80s, which also served as a rehearsal place for the band. The Ratinger Hof was a mecca for up and coming punk bands, many who gained a foothold thanks to the The Hof’s fertile breeding ground. Discovered by Krautrock king Conny Plank (who would produce the band’s first four records) Fred Banana’s sound, much like Plank’s, is rather unique. Purely punk at times FBC enjoyed infusing their sound up with new wave and power pop with most of their jams punching out in less than three minutes. The band’s first full-length album, 1981’s FBC was fast, loud and rowdy and when combined all eighteen tracks on the record clock in at just over 30 minutes. Like a lot of bands trying to cut their teeth FBC was fond of doing covers and have recorded a few great ones including Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” and “Runaway” by Del Shannon. Both songs feature the fantastic vocals of FBC’s Nicolle Meyer—formerly the muse of influential French photographer and Man Ray protégé Guy Bourdin. The multi-talented Ms. Meyer also doubled as the timekeeper for FBC.
FBC were no more by the late 80s only to return with their original lineup in 2015 and a new record containing eleven fresh songs. One of them, the devastatingly cool “Splinters” features the guest vocals of Sara Jay of Massive Attack fame. The Best of The Old Shit and The New Shit also contains twenty tracks from the band’s back catalog as well as a DVD featuring FBC appearances on Rockpalast. I’ve included two FBC live performances from 1980, their excellent cover of “Bird on a Wire,” plus the original song “I Don’t Know,” as well as “No Destination Blues” and “Splinters” for you to listen to below. I would have posted the masterfully weird “Jerk Off All Night Long” but it came along with lots of photos of topless ladies which while they pair perfectly with the songs title, was a little too visually stimulating to post here on a family publication like DM. You can “listen” to it here whenever you’re needing some alone time.
If you’re in need of some sweet sounds to help improve your mood, then the following jams are probably going to scratch that itch for you. Trust me.
The Fred Banana Project cover Del Shannon’s 1961 hit, ‘Runaway’ on ‘Rockpalast,’ 1980.
The Fred Banana Project performing ‘I Don’t Know’ on ‘Rockpalast,’ 1980.
The Fred Banana Combo’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s 1969 single ‘Bird on a Wire.’
The Fred Banana Project, ‘No Destination Blues.’
The Fred Banana Combo single ‘Splinters’ with vocals by Sarah Jay of Massive Attack, 2015.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Strassenjungs: The ‘fake’ German punk rockers who toured with The Clash
Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kraftwerk, Suzi Quatro, AC/DC & more on German TV show ‘Rockpop’
Exiles in Düsseldorf: Austrian TV special on Kraftwerk, 1981