I was alerted to this band by friends who saw them play in the clubs. “A must see”, they said. “Hippest band in town”, they said. This was no lie. Every musician who saw this group wanted to be in it or form a group just like it. Led by South American guitarist/singer Gus Samtaolalla, their pan-cultural approach to pop music was sweaty, authentic and sophisticated. Their 5 song vinyl EP, Balls Up was perhaps too good for it’s own good. The greatest band to never break out of the shitty LA club circuit; their best stuff remains lost in the ether, a masterpiece unpainted. Balls Up was a common sighting in the mark-down bins in L.A record stores during the early 80’s, it is now an exceedingly rare find.Cocktail Sky (Wet Picnic)video 1982
Humanoids on Parade (HOP) 1984 – Hungarian Synthesizer maestro Adam Rado spent the 70’s composing rock operas only a selected few would hear. However in the 80’s he decided to retrofit his muse, form a band, and hit the LA clubs. Along the way Rado released a fine collection of electronic, dance-floor pop that both embraced and lampooned the trendier aspects of Californicating culture. Titles like “I Got Left By Mister Right”, “TV Relationships”, and “Living On The Fault-line” were delivered by the blond & brunette vocal tag team of Tina Gullickson and Mikki Norris with equal parts motown sass and party girl pathos. The beats slammed. Their vinyl EP Humanoids On Parade can be yours for about 25 bucks if you search the web hard enough. hoplinktube
Beast Of Beast (Sex Drugs And Noise) 1982
Vocallist/Songwriter/Chanteuse Virginia Macolino paid her L.A. dues in spades. While leading the Prog Punk outfit Virginia And The Slims through an 18 month club slog, she was poached by Orange County Euro-pop wanna-bees Berlin….. Not allowed to write for that group, she got fed up after recording one album and left the band only months before Berlin became international stars. Her answer was to take back control of her muse and form the band Beast Of Beast. The frustration she endured in her previous bands found expression in the spleen venting debut EP Sex Drugs and Noise. Dame’ Macolino’s Persian ‘cat on a hot tin roof ‘ growl paired perfectly with the serrated edge scrapings of guitarist Roy Felig. On the vanguard of noise-pop before it became mainstream. Sex Drugs And Noise carries a hefty price tag on the collectable vinyl market.Play
Tex Townes And His Two Tone Trance Band (Spoken Word and Post Psychodelic Trance Music) 1985 – Inhabiting the same windswept, tumbleweed strewn artistic landscape as Captain Beefheart and Lawrence Ferlingetti, Jimmy (Tex) Townes was an original with a big O. Having played in his band a year, I can attest to his shamanistic and bohemian tendencies. Make no mistake, the man and the music are the real deal. Scratchy, tuba buttressed, freeform jams lay the bedrock for Tex’s stoney, witch-doctor rants about God, dogs, Amerika, things that are good, nature and the language of art. His only official release, Spoken Word and Post Psychodelic Trance Music is like a message in a bottle found by the side of a desert road. The CD is available from Rabadash Records; every home should own one .Buytexl
Bjork (Bjork) 1977 – Yes, I know. What’s Bjork doing on this list? Well, long before her international success, an 11 year old Bjork was shuttled into a studio by some Icelandic impresarios intent on turning her into the new Charlotte Church. She whispered and cooed her way through several covers (including The Fool On The Hill). Bjork’s Ministry of Information would prefer you not know about this record. In fact, her second solo album was titled “Debut” to throw us off the scent. Last time I saw this album for sale on line, the asking price was 800 dollars. Not a masterpiece, but Bjork’s original muse can be found here, gestating like an extraterrestrial seed/pod; waiting for the day it would rise and take over…. DA VERLD!!
The Roto-Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band (RRGTCB) 1974 I first saw this group in the mid 70’s while waiting to perform at a songwriters showcase at the Icehouse in Pasadena. They opened with a ‘balls of brass’ trombone quintet version of Khachatkurian’s The Sabre Dance. One of the guys was dressed like an ape. Another like a glitter rocker. Another was wearing cowboy drag. You get the idea. Their album, Roto-Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band, is an American homage to the Bonzo Dog Band. Their self titled album finds a lounge lizard version of Purple Haze siting side by side with a squonky, poisoned goose arrangement of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring. They would later shorten their name to Roto and try to mine a more conventional Pop-Rock quarry. No dice. Dr. Demento was their biggest fan and benefactor.
The Howlers (The Howlers) – A cautionary tale. This is what happens when you take a $90,000 inheritance, Rock-Star dreams and a full cup of pharmaceutical grade chutzpah, dump them into a blender and hit ‘puree’. Amateur Bluesologist/couch potato Rivers McDogg blew through a personal fortune to make this record. It’s a hodgepodge collection of acceptable blues covers “Back Door Man” and “Dirty Water”, a WTF(?) version of the Miles Davis standard “Freedom Jazz Dance” and a smattering of originals. Bone fide music heavyweights (The Band’s Garth Hudson and Ambrosia’s Burliegh Drummond) are busted slumming in the studio with local hotshots (Dominic Bakewell, Larry Embry, Glen Laughlin and …..yours truly). The most legit artistic moment is the McDogg original “Petunias and Daffodils”, a snortin’ and hollerin’ voice and harmonica workout. This album was pressed, released and spawned two singles. And the only place you’re ever likely to find them is in my personal record collection.