Do You Remember When You Still Had Hair?

2 Mar


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!


27 Responses to “Do You Remember When You Still Had Hair?”

  1. mark March 3, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    Makes me think of Bomb, the great S.F. (in EVERY sense) late 80’s early 90’s band. Hell, I bet these bands played together at the Chatterbox. I guess this scene got killed in the market by the major label feeding frenzy that happened. You’ve heard Bolles’s Fancy Space People, right?

  2. mrowster March 3, 2008 at 6:16 pm #

    I do not know Bomb. And Fancy Space People? No, I haven’t heard of them either. But I do know Bolles was one of the few guys around who actually owned and appreciated the original ZOLAR-X transparent vinyl LP for years before it’s CD release. So, it figures.

  3. mark March 3, 2008 at 6:51 pm #

    Check myspace for Fancy Space People. Glitter/Kosmische/even a bit of ABBA, filtered through Bolles’s strange vision, IMO. Only one song up for months now, but a damn good one. Fun, fun, fun. Bomb kinda ruled in S.F. for a while. Got involved w/ Bill Laswell then imploded. They did a really fun reunion show some years back. Their guitarist, Doug Hilsinger, is motherfucker of a player. He has played aggro instrumental stuff in Gift Horse, countrified electric stuff in Waycross (sometimes on pedal steel!), strange cover bands, etc. etc. The man f’in ROCKS. Singer Michael Dean has gone on to be a great d.i.y. film maker, based in L.A. I once saw him riding his bike in through Silver Lake. A man on a BIKE in L.A.! Wow!

  4. mrowster March 3, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

    Just checked out the FANCY cut – it is good. Hope they’ll do more.

    The name “Laswell” (like the name “Buckethead”) triggers bad associations in my skull. But I’ll overlook that, just this once, and search around the web for some of the bands you’ve mentioned. I’ll let you know what I find.

  5. mark March 3, 2008 at 7:56 pm #

    Bomb can be found on Boner records, maybe their doing emusic now. Waycross can be found from Amoeba in S.F., probably. ‘Appy ‘untin’!

  6. mark March 3, 2008 at 8:04 pm #

    One more thing. There is currently a dorky corporate kuntry band called Waycross. This is not the S.F. Waycross, which had amazing female vocals and heavy-ish rhythms. Ok. I’ll shut up now.

  7. Less Lee March 3, 2008 at 8:37 pm #

    “I remember when you still had hair, but do you?”

    Nice Death Folk reference.

    I thought Ms. Love said she swiped the name “Celebrity Skin” from that tabloid. . . but then again, she’s not known for being exactly truthful about her past.

    My copy of Good Clean Fun was burned from a friend’s CD and is UNPLAYABLE. It’s a serious problem for me because it’s not like I can find the damn thing in record stores around here. . . not that we even HAVE record stores, actually.

  8. mrowster March 3, 2008 at 8:48 pm #

    mark: Boner – not only the home of all those cool early MELVINS records, but the almighty FANG as well. Yeah I’m searching BOMB out fr sure.

    Less: Haha – yeah, not too many record or cd stores left standing. On my recent trip back to LA, I found that Rhino Records in Westwood, Aaron’s on Highland, and Soundsations in Westchester (a little place dear to my heart) have all gone belly-up since I left. The situation’s similar here in London.

  9. mrowster March 3, 2008 at 8:51 pm #

    Less: And THE DEATH FOLK deserved better, way better. I frickin’ looove their version of QUEEN’s “’39”.

  10. Less Lee March 4, 2008 at 12:01 am #

    No joke, that first Death Folk album is on my Top Ten List of 90s albums. It’s just astoundingly good.

  11. thomas p March 5, 2008 at 1:21 am #

    Death Folk? One of the greatest albums of all times!

  12. mark March 5, 2008 at 1:54 am #

    If you find any Bomb, try to grab Hits of Acid, which was on Boner. A direction that was their own, for sure. Recorded at Inner Ear in D.C., too!

  13. Mike H March 9, 2008 at 8:59 pm #

    Celebrity Skin were one of my most life changing bands of all time…just loved their whole THING. I was lucky enough to score one of the few RADIATION MAN 7 inch records a few years back, with a handmade cover…same version as on the Tantrum comp but with better sound, thank God.

  14. mrowster March 9, 2008 at 9:12 pm #

    Didn’t know there was a “Radiation Man” 7-inch! Here, I thought I was familiar with their whole discography. Wow.

    Yeah I too hoped music at the dawn of the 90’s would follow them, instead of NIRVANA or whathaveyou. Ah well, I can still dream.

  15. Mike H March 9, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    Yeah! A Rad Man 7 inch! Crazy! They also appeared on several compilation albums as I’m sure you know…mostly songs that would later be re-recorded and end up on their own releases. We should compare notes sometime and make sure we’re both aware of it all.

  16. mrowster March 9, 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    Since you mentioned it . . . here is as a complete a discography of CB as I know of:
    a. Good Clean Fun LP (XXX Records, 1991)
    b. Celebrity Skin EP (XXX Records, 1990; CD contains extra track “Mother’s Day”)
    c. “Hello”/”Monkey Brains” promo 7” 45 (XXX Records, same versions as found on LP)
    d. Let It Bleat comp. LP (Gore Records, 1988; contains EP version of “Clownscare”)
    e. Tantrum comp. LP (Cocktail Records, 1990; contains “Radiation Man” and alternate version of “Rat Fink”)
    f. Munster Dance Hall Favorites Vol. III (Munster Records, 1990; contains alternate version of “Introduction”)
    g. The Melting Plot comp. LP (SST Records, 1989; contains alternate version of “S.O.S.”)

    and oh yeah, your “Radiation Man” 7″

  17. Mike H March 9, 2008 at 9:50 pm #

    OK…there is at least one more release that I can think of, but i’m not at home so I can’t tell you what it’s called right now.

    It’s a compilation that contains an early version of Evicted, and a Death Folk track as well. I think The same version of evicted was also on a Flipside comp.

    here’s what the 7 inch looks like:

  18. mrowster March 9, 2008 at 9:59 pm #

    Ack! I don’t have a Photobucket account, and your account is private.

    Yes I did forget the Flipside Vinyl Fanzines 2-CD comp. on Gasatanka. That’s got “Evicted” but I don’t think any Death Folk tracks.

  19. Mike H March 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    oh! whoops…ok, try these instead:

    if it doesn’t work let me know and i’ll upload somewhere else.

  20. mrowster March 10, 2008 at 5:48 pm #

    I can see em now. Great – thanks for these.

  21. rico vanian March 11, 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    do i remember when i still had hair?
    but i drink alot.

  22. Less Lee March 29, 2008 at 1:37 am #

    HAHA, trust Mike H. to come out of the woodwork when Celebrity Skin is mentioned! Whoo!

  23. Less Lee April 7, 2008 at 10:24 pm #

    Wait, I have a CD single! Unfortunately it is in storage so I can’t see it, but I know it has a cover of “S.O.S.” on it.

  24. mrowster April 8, 2008 at 5:49 am #

    Yeah – that’s their self-titled CD EP. “S.O.S.” is the main track, but there’s 3 other cuts on it too. It’s a good one.

  25. Standard April 26, 2008 at 1:06 pm #

    Hi everybody, can someone upload Death Folk albums to share and send me the download link?

  26. allendl181 April 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    I know I’m coming to this party 2 years too late but just had to thank you for this wonderful post, along with the one on the song “Golden Boys”. Celebrity Skin was one of the greatest bands of all time; I saw them live about 2 or 3 dozen times between 1988 and their lamented demise in 1991. They never failed to entertain. I have all the aforementioned albums (as well as the album by Gary Celebrity and the two Death Folk albums) and still believe they were the greatest rock band ever. They just encapsulated everything I’ve ever loved about rock, pop, punk, glitter, glam, metal, etc. It was all there and it was all great.

  27. Heidi Peterson May 24, 2015 at 5:56 am #

    Love these guys. Gorgeously irreverent yet sentimental.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: