Imperial Leather

3 Oct

THE IMPERIAL DOGSLive in Long Beach (October 30, 1974) DVD.

So: it’s 1974, ok. All across the USA. It’s another year for me and you, another year with nothin’ to do. But there’s an insane South Bay rock band calling themselves THE IMPERIAL DOGS who’ve come to play the student union at a local college campus, promising “an evening of sex, violence and public outrage.” Needless to say, all promises are kept. And somebody brings a video camera to document it.

35 years later, this DVD arrives.

Yep: THE IMPERIAL DOGS were indeed four wildass white guys from the early 70’s who dug gtrs and very loud amplification. Fed up with suburban life, they channelled the Gods of Detroit Heavy Metal and kicked up a racket that sounded like a particularly fun and sloppy night on the BLUE ÖYSTER CULT Secret Treaties tour. Their only claim to fame at the time came when BÖC themselves used an IMPERIAL DOGS song title and refrain (“This Ain’t the Summer of Love”) on their mega-platinum Agents of Fortune LP. But for a few of us, they also remain a vitally important link in the chain that connected 60’s garage rock with early 70’s heavy metal and on into late 70’s punk rock.

Sonically speaking, the music contained on this DVD bests the live stuff waxed on their archival Dog Meat Records LP back in 1989. The fidelity here is equally murky, but the rockin’ is tighter and the song selection superior – check out newly unearthed cuts like “Just Kids”, “Loud, Hard & Fast” and “Sweet Little Strychnine” – vicious little gems, these be. Throughout, gtrist Paul Therrio slashes both rhythm and lead menacingly behind a surfer’s wall of blonde hair, drummer Bill Willett not only plays but looks like the MC5’s Dennis Thompson, and bassist Tim Hilger – dressed in bondage leather, chains, and fur trousers! – keeps it totally cool, and strikes me as the most musical of the bunch.

Visually though, it’s frontman Don Waller who bumps this performance up to a new level. Oh man is he one righteously pissed-off cat. He screams like David Johansen, contorts like Iggy, and stalks this multi-purpose room stage like an crazed S&M biker, hollering more abuse at this polite hippie audience than any sane man oughta. I like that he’s smart enough to keep a sense of humor biting throughout, and that he explicitly acknowledges that hallowed lineage that gave him permission to get this crazy in the first place: Bo Diddley, THE KINKS, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed & THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, MOTT THE HOOPLE. His over the top performance – at various points utilizing a whip, a chain, and a revealing couple of inches of asscrack – renders most of the clueless crowd mute. He does succeed in getting a couple cute girls dancing – which, I suppose, was his not-so hidden agenda all along.

Taken together, this IMPERIAL DOGS performance sounds & looks like what I always imagine Mick Farren’s DEVIANTS must’ve, 5 years earlier: sub-basement primal, burning hot to the touch, and fiercely urgent. It’s four misfits grabbing the time of their lives straight outta the thin, milktoast air in early 70’s suburban Southern California. True, damn near nobody there knew quite what to make of it all. But then such is the fate of so much rock ‘n’ roll greatness, especially that which surfaced before punk made such musical/emotional extremes more socially acceptable. At least now we got the goods to keep their promise alive for generations to come.

Get it here


2 Responses to “Imperial Leather”

  1. Dennis Catron October 9, 2009 at 6:18 am #

    You always hear about shows like this, how rare one’s actually on film? Awesome. If I don’t find a pair of pants like the bass player I’m gonna cry like a bitch.

    If there really is a god, there exists film of Hoogland’s mayo show, Dahl and Doolin with no drummer, and the teen band Triangle – During their soundcheck at The Troubadour, the perky singer/bassist accidentally blew off all their pyrotechnics, then smiled at me nervously and said, “It’s O.K., we’re metal.”

  2. mrowster October 9, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

    I’m told THE MECHANICS always did slather it on pretty thick :)

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