Jimmy Skafish broke punk in Chicago in 1976 during an audition night at the now-defunct B’Ginnings nightclub in Schaumburg. Wearing an old ladies one-piece bathing suit and a purple page boy haircut, Skafish sprinkled the crowd with holy water while spewing bilious, fury-driven songs that terrified the entirely unsuspecting crowd. It was the first of countless performances at which the audience would literally desire to kill the outrageous singer, but it was also the birth of punk in Chicago. ~ Bob Kurson
The band known as Skafish was, in essence, lead singer, composer and conceptualist, Jim Skafish. An eccentric genius with a nose the size of a suburban carport, Jim’s music defied easy categorization, sounding at times like a demented lounge singer or Zappa on helium, his music fused punk’s rawness with jazz experimentation, melodic pop and the blues. The sound was innovative and the lyrics were painfully autobiographical, describing child abuse, alienation and rejection. Over six feet 3 inches tall and with tits, Jim, looked like a transsexual who decided to bail on the process before the surgeon had finished the job. He was, by his own admission, a freak. And he should have been a superstar.
I used to strip down to an old lady’s one-piece bathing suit with a babushka and then do the fucking ‘Sign of the Cross,’ . I would wear tube tops and diapers onstage, and one time in Europe I wore a baby’s bonnet with pee-stained underwear.
His debut album, Skafish, was the first record released by Miles Copeland’s I.R.S. label.Though Skafish toured Europe with The Police, XTC, UB-40, Squeeze, English Beat, and U-2, playing anywhere from 8,000 seat arenas to 45,000 seat stadiums on a daily basis, the band never managed to become a commercial success. I.R.S didn’t even bother releasing the their second album. Jim quickly faded from view - ahead of his time, misunderstood, and ignored.
A recent video of Skafish performing Disgracing The Family Name.
For those of us who had an opportunity to see Skafish perform, as I did in 1977 at CBGB, his talent and stage show were indelible. As was his album. The good news, for those who are curious and those who are fans, is that Skafish has released a compilation of his best songs titled What’s This? 1976 - 1979. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Jim’s music, now would be a good time to start. And as it was over 3 decades ago, it’s still ahead of its time.