CELEBRITY SKIN: my kinda pop superstars, indeed.
Some fool once noted that CELEBRITY SKIN marked “that point at which 80’s underground camp/freak consciousness rose to meet the average BAM magazine reader on terms (s)he could comprehend”, and I’m gonna haveta agree. Call me glamfag, but their sloppy n wildass playing, hooks-up-the-butt tunage, and wry, SPARKSian humour spelt a little AM gold in my book. That they wore lamé clown pants and green dreads all around Hollywood shouldn’t be ignored either – I reckon them to be some of my last fashion heroes of the 20th century. They played dozens of shows around LA in the later 80’s/early 90’s with like-minded dayglo body painters DEATHRIDE ’69, MOTORCYCLE BOY, PIGMY LOVE CIRCUS and the always mediocre JANE’S ADDICTION. But the closest I ever got to seeing them live was in a short performance included in the shitty 80’s romantic comedy “Rich Girl” – anybody else see that? Gary Celebrity singing in a bunny suit. Perfect.
Genesis P-Orridge wore a CELEBRITY SKIN t-shirt at PSYCHIC TV’s Easter ’88 gig that I attended at the Variety Arts Center in LA, and between songs he gushed about “this great new Don Bolles teen combo”. Yeah not unlike PSYCHIC TV, the CELEBS almost succeeded in complete and utter world domination – well, in/around LA clubland anyway. While drugs and death cut their creative stride prematurely, somebody named Courtney Love was hiding in their equipment van all along, studying their every move, wishing she could be as cool as them. Don told me that it took heavy legal pressure for Ms. Love to eventually fork over even a tiny payment as compensation for appropriating their name wholesale for her hit record & tune.
To my immature mind CELEBRITY SKIN, the band, will always stand as THE GERMS psychoparty (un)consciousness all grown-up-wrong and stuffed into neat 3 min. pop songs. That they originated out of Pat Smear’s VAGINA DENTATA in the mid-80’s and somehow roped in homeless Don Bolles to bash for em, then not long outta SILVER CHALICE & 45 GRAVE, ain’t no mere coincidence. But when you note that Rob Ritter (ex-BAGS, GUN CLUB, SILVER CHALICE) roadied for em, and Geza X produced it all – well, this was a Masque club reunion by anyone’s measure.
Their best ever recorded moment was also their first: “Radiation Man”, preserved forevermore in sadly muted, poorly mastered form on the long-forgotten Tantrum compilation LP. KXLU DJs played a sonically superior, radio-cart version of this throughout the late 80’s, no doubt in response to my pestering phonecalls requesting they play it again, “and this time, really really loud!” It sounded like vintage DAMNED ripping through REDD KROSS’ “Linda Blair”, and to this day still gives me chills. Later work on the Triple X label is uneven, but the best of it – like their straight cover of ABBA’s “S.O.S.” and the supersweet “Poisanna” – are well-worth searching out too. Though you angry punker types are gonna bum hard on the happy, radio-friendly CHEAP TRICK powerpoppin’ of it all.
Whatever, them shitty Triple X masters are positively cryin’ for a proper reissue. Any takers?
Check em out:
“Radiation Man” (from the Tantrum comp. LP, Cocktail Records, 1989)
“Poisanna” (from Good Clean Fun, Triple X Records, 1991)
And OH SHIT. Just now stumbled on a held-held vid of them performing live in the late 80’s at Hollywood High School – doing what is, hands down, my favorite song of all time! I’m over the mooooooooon!