Sun City Girls was brothers Alan and Richard Bishop with Charlie Gocher on drums. The group formed in 1981 in Phoenix, AZ, during a time in which bands like J.F.A, The Feederz, and Meat Puppets invigorated their Southwestern capital. Having played their first show with Black Flag and toured with JFA, you would think that SCG fit in well with the hardcore kids. As it turns out, the punks hated Sun City Girls.
In 1999, Richard Bishop was interviewed for Popwatch Magazine and had this to say about his band’s relationship with punk rock:
Though the shows were always with punk/hardcore bands, it was still the only outlet for our kind of performance and it was quite enjoyable to play in front of that type of crowd. It was easy to develop sort of an anti-audience attitude. Much of the time it was us against the crowd, and the more they hated us the more we relished the fact that we were controlling their evening by purposely putting them in an environment that they were uncomfortable with instead of it being the other way around. The music we were playing was foreign to them and on many occasions we would just do Cloaven Theater with no instruments at all. Some nights we got pretty damn demonic with them, other nights we didn’t even acknowledge their presence. Either way we were pulling the strings and they were at our disposal. We enjoyed that and we still do whenever we feel it’s necessary. We just did what we wanted to do without a care in the world.
At the time, it was the same “punk” attitude that the audience had, except it was used with intelligence instead of stupidity. The audience can be your best instrument, especially when they’re out of tune or out of touch with what you’re throwing at them. So all in all, it was the best way to begin.
Over twenty-six years, the group of merry pranksters released an unsurmountable catalog of music, varying from extensive improvisations of jazz and mangled rock & roll, experimental surfrider, rambling beat poetry, and exotic song styles ranging from South America, to the Middle East and Asia. Unconstrained and mysteriously expansive, their lyrical content delved into an interest of the mystical, paranormal, esoteric, and extraterrestrial. Each record was unpredictable and the infrequent live performances were costumed and bordered ceremonious performance art. In 2007, drummer Charles Gocher passed away from cancer, bringing an end to the Sun City Girls. At the end of their career, the group had released 50 albums, with 1990’s art-rock record Torch of Mystics regarded by many to be their crowning achievement.
Torch of Mystics
After Charlie’s death, the Bishops toured the world as the Brothers Unconnected, a dedication to their fallen friend and the band they shared together. With dates throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, Alan and Richard played songs from SCG, along with sets by their own projects, Alvarius B and Sir Richard Bishop. In 2010, the new-era SCG had just two shows scheduled – and those were in Beirut.
Poster for Sun City Girls in Beirut
Growing up in Michigan, the Bishop brothers spent a good amount of time with their grandfather, a Lebanese Freemason and master oud player. Friends and family would often frequent his house for overnight jam sessions; experiences that would reconstruct Alan and Richard’s perception of culture and musicianship. This inspiration would eventually lead to the creation of the rare foreign-sounds record label, Sublime Frequencies, in 2003.
The quest for undiscovered artifacts from the unknown has brought the Bishops’ to bizarre cultural landscapes. The pilgrimage to the motherland of Lebanon was the very first Sun City Girls show in the Middle East. Lebanese media recognized the intrigue of an unknown experimental band playing in Beirut and ran a local news story about it. Frequently citing the song “CIA Man,” from the 1987 record Horse Cock Phephner, the reporter describes a strong political motivation intended to directly provoke the CIA and its policies. Much to their surprise, however, the song was a cover from 1965 written by the Fugs.
Watch a Lebanese news segment on the Sun City Girls below:
‘CIA Man’ by Sun City Girls. Fucking-A Man!
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Sun City Girls’ Alan Bishop pays mind-bending tribute to Indonesian psych-rockers Koes Plus
‘Product of America’: Members of the Germs and Meat Puppets resurrect a Phoenix punk band from 1978