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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!


Big Hair Redux

1 Jun

(I wrote the following for another blog of mine a year or so back, but as I’m bumming heavily on a recent turn of events initiated by the provider of that blog, in apparent “good faith” – I’m moving house. Do excuse the mess.)


Not long ago, I won this on e-bay:


“Here in a once-in-a-lifetime box set are all the memories, all the music, the fashion and culture from Hollywood’s most-remembered decade, wrapped up in one glorious stargazing vehicle we’re calling Hollywood Rocks – The Audio Companion! Designed as a companion to the book HOLLYWOOD ROCKS!, this two-year project involved collecting demo cassettes, 12” vinyl, CDs, VHS and video tapes submitted by hundreds of current and former rock stars. Listen in awe to the demo-quality of an early DOKKEN. Close your eyes and pretend that you’re in the studio while WARRANT refines their songwriting craftsmanship. There’s no “re-recorded” stuff, either, since we passed on the countless submissions dated post ’93! So, here they are – digitally remastered and represented exactly how they were, straight from the original recordings!”

As I sit here staring at this thing, my mind is transported back to a time when I could barely breathe in Hollywood, what with all the hair spray wafting around the Blvds. God, I remember sifting through record bins in THE ROCK SHOP and paging through issues of BAM and ROCK CITY NEWS, month-after-month, in search of SOMETHING, ANYTHING that might vaguely appeal to a glam-hating, HC kid with a half-shaven head like myself. And always, no dice. I’m not being elitist here: objectively, it was so goddamn caustic, the presence of all that careerist, dead-on-arrival poncy pop hair metal. They were milktoast hacks in corporate candypants. And their rock was SICKLY, man.

Of course we all change, grow, move on. Some mature, others (me?) get progressively lamer, less discerning, more dimwitted. With time my musical and non-musical interests began circling ever closer to the dreaded BIG HAIR aesthetic. Inexplicably, I began to appreciate the presence of skinny, ass-shakin’ banshee dudes in female attire, screamin’ goofiness atop wailing gtr solos. So much so, that I ended up buying the HOLLYWOOD ROCKS! coffee table book last year – so I could BETTER FIGURE MY SHIT OUT.

Hollywood rocks!

Now I didn’t mean to win this CD box set, really. I was really drunk when I bid. But I won it, and it’s arrived. And now I’ve got to tell you about it. It’s 4 discs, 1 big fat error-riddled booklet, plus collectable HOLLYWOOD ROCKS! badge and “all-access backstage pass”. I’ll skip over yr WARRANTS, STRYPERS, POISONS – you might already have a better perspective on that stuff, since it still doesn’t mean much to me. But fuck apologies – are you READY to hear about the MEAT of this collection?


THE SEA HAGS – “Doghouse” demo – ouch! All their growlin’ can’t be good for the vocal cords, but it makes for compelling R’N’R. This version cuts the LP version bigtime. Totally hard n nasty fun – I can completely imagine being fucked up in some Hollywood alley with this pounding in my skull. No wonder THE NYMPHS’ Inger Lorre fell for this guy.

STARS FROM MARS – “We Got Tonight” – Someone told me these guys were the direct precursor to the mucho great ULTRAS – check out their EP on XXX Records, it’s a corker – and if that’s the case I gotta find some big hair burnout to dub me ALL their demos. This, as shaky/unsteady as it is, is pretty fucking wonderful.

PRETTY BOY FLOYD – “Shut Up!” – This sounds more mid-90’s than early-90’s, but what do I know? It’s bitchen HANOI-ROCKin’ trash all the same.

MOTORCYCLE BOY – “Cat’s Paw” – These guy’s full-length CD on Flipside Records didn’t do much for me, but they also recorded a bomb-blast called “I Hate the Sunset Strip” that pretty much summed up my sentiments back then. This cut is in that vein, so I dig.

THE JONESES/THE HANGMEN/CANDY/KILLS FOR THRILLS – the tunes here are all available elsewhere, but they’re none-to-easy to find and all really fine, non-embarrassing additions to any 80’s glam pop/rock borehole you might be planning to drill into your brain.


BLACK CHERRY – “Fading Away” – Paul Black (ex-MAU MAUS, JONESES, LA GUNS) formed this in an attempt to finally cash in on the very scene he’d helped build, but failed to release much of anything at the time. Hearing it now, finally, we understand why.

KERY DOLL – “Too Good For Heaven” – Infamous early 80’s, S&M clad vamp, cut from the same cloth as early MOTLEY CRUE. Thin production and the guy can’t really sing. Ho hum.

DECRY – “Dead End Zone” – I’m always excited to hear what ex-HCpunker types might bring to the big hair feast, but what these guys brought was shit.

Just Nuts:

SLUT – “Dr. Monster” – Holy shit! This man’s glass-shattering 6-octave range has gotta be heard to be believed!

SOUND BARRIER – “Gladiator” – Only Black Rock Coalition entry here. Admittedly these ex-Jersey boys could play, but they were waaaay off with their funk/metal hybrid shitbrew. And oh man I don’t EVEN wanna think about what kinda BS they no doubt took from the all them up-from-the-Valley-for-the-Hollywood-party hesher types who clogged all the clubs back then.

PLAIN JANE – “The Time Wrap” – Somebody’s unearthed their cassette demo of the Rocky Horror perennial – in all it’s hiss-stewn glory. It’s so screechily debauched it’ll make your butt itch.

BITCH – “Be My Slave” – I WANT YOU TO BE MY SLAVE! screams the leather-clad female lead singer. Somebody’s fantasy, just not mine.

Omissions (shoulda been but weren’t included):

VAIN – Although they’re SF dudes, they pedalled their shit at length in LA, and dammit if they didn’t record the best big hair LP ever (No Respect). But you won’t hear it here.

ARCADE – You’re laughing already, but this post-RATT project of Stephen Pearcy’s was great-albeit-redundant AD/DC-type rock action that arrived a couple years too late to really impress anybody. They should be remembered for at least the length of a song, dammit.

NYMPHS – Sure these freaks had more in common with the LEAVING TRAINS-end of the rock spectrum than, say, ALLEYCAT SCRATCH, but they occasionally played bills with proper big hair bands and were served up to the public by David Geffen AS IF they were big hair, so . . .

LETCHEN GREY – Never heard em, but always wanted to, since I used a found Letchen Grey pick during bass gtr lessons in Torrance throughout much of ’85. The “mini-LP” they put out on Greenworld in ’86 certainly LOOKS the part (go google it) – definitely a missed opportunity for the Cleopatra gang.

JESTERS OF DESTINY – Didn’t know anything about these guys until a reissue appeared outta SWEDEN a couple years back. 1 part 45 GRAVE, 1 part DOKKEN, but cut with a strong shot of . . . I dunno . . .THROBBING GRISTLE? It blows the competition outta the hair saloon.

And you now may ask: Dude, have you figured your shit out, even a little bit, through all of this? Well, uh, no. But I have learned to breathe easier, hairspray be damned.