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Do You Remember When You Still Had Hair?

2 Mar

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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!

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It’s Raining Go-Go-Golden Boys

21 Apr

There is this song that I’ve lived with and loved since I was a teen. It’s a good song – a really, really good song, in fact. But in the intervening years (and given my obsessive traits), it’s kinda . . . taken over. First it felt like gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe, the kind I just couldn’t seem to wipe off. Then it grew into a creepy ritual lovespell, one that subtly encouraged me to behave in ways I’d never ever, if left alone. More recently it’s felt more like a nasty case of syphilis, warping all rational thought and leaving behind blistering sores that I just can’t scratch enough. And it’s still with me today. It’s called “Golden Boys”, and I gotta cut it loose.

What I know: “Golden Boys” is variously credited to Darby Crash/Pat Smear, Pat Smear alone, and Bell/Crash/Ferris/Smear depending on who’s covering it. It most certainly began life in the dying days of THE GERMS, and Darby most certainly penned the lyrics. Whether or not THE GERMS ever worked up a nascent version of it remains unclear. I sure as hell haven’t ever heard of or found reference to it, and lemme tell ya: I’ve looked. VAGINA DENTATA, who featured Pat fresh out of TWISTED ROOTS, definitely waxed the first version, probably in late ’83/early ’84. Beyond that . . . well, only Pat himself knows the full details, and he’s too busy pushing Hagstrom Guitars to bother with this story. What follows is, most definitely, a rundown of all known versions of the song. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you: this shit will take over if you’re not careful.

1) Vagina Dentata, “Golden Boys” (Flipside Vinyl Fanzine Vol. II Comp., Flipside/Gasatanka Records, 1984) – Now, there are other recorded versions of this great song sans the long intro, but this is, hands down, the best. Those big, wild drums . . . that pummeling bass . . . those psychotic leads . . . and oh wow what a lead singer Michelle Bell (a.k.a. Gerber) could be when she cut loose, as she does with freakin’ abandon here. I wonder what happened to her . . .

2) Pat Ruthensmear, “Golden Boys” (Ruthensmear, SST Records, 1987) – I remember listening to this when it first came out and thinking, man, this is the polar opposite of what Pat did with the GERMS. But that wiggy contrariness (traceable at least back to his tenure with TWISTED ROOTS) is a big part his appeal. The over-the-top glam/pomp rock thing seemed to make a lot of sense in LA during the second half of the 80’s, and here, everything’s coming up roses. Pat belts it out like a lisping Mick Ronson, and like Mick, he plays most of the instruments too.  And when he sings “Golden Boys” in place of where Darby shoulda been, well, ya can’t help but tear up.

3) Gary Celebrity, “Golden Boys” (Diary of a Monster, Triple X Records, 1992) – Kinda perfunctory in execution but Gary’s entitled to do it anyway he wants, seeing as he drummed on the VAGINA DENTATA original. Gary sometimes sang this with his great ‘n’ garish 80’s teenbeat combo CELEBRITY SKIN, who I promise to gush about in a separate post soon. Oh and PAT plays gtr on this too, making this almost an electric DEATH FOLK outtake, if that means anything to ya.

4) The Dickies, “Golden Boys” (Idjit Savant, Triple X Records, 1995) – Leave it to the DICKIES to really bring out the melody in a song. Secretly, the late 80’s/early 90’s line-up of the DICKIES is my favorite. They weren’t so young (and certainly not so clean) anymore – but their sound was expanding in all manner of goofy, orchestralpop ways, and their lyrics were getting weirder by the hour – giving them an even more SPARKS-ian glow than ever before. “Boys” is rendered in straightahead DICKIES style, but they spruce it up with an extra bridge that stamps it as their own.

5) Pavement, “Golden Boys/Serpentine Pad” (Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition, Matador Records, 2006) – Never thought I’d be putting a PaveFUCKINGment song on my blog, but live long enough and Plop! There it goes. This mid 90’s outtake of theirs isn’t the worst version of the song I’ve heard (that would be the live version PAVEMENT did of this song available on their Stuff Up the Cracks boot, which I’ll spare you today), and their choice to take some artistic licence with it ain’t such a bad idea either. It’s that “Cut Your Hair” guy’s voice – in all it’s lifesucking faux-lazyass, uh, “glory” – that really gets me shifting in my seat. I know these guys are revered as some kinda 90’s indie/emo supermen, but dude – in my universe, PAVEMENT will always be the musical equivalent to tepid, stewed okra. Uhggh.

6) NoFX, “Golden Boys” (Never Trust a Hippy, Fat Wreck Chords, 2006) – Sadly, what new pop/punk/HC stuff suceeds in doing for me is only to make me miss the darker/wilder/hairier forms of early 80’s HC that much more. And I admit I have never listened to these guys or ridden a snowboard before, so I’m really not qualified to say much. This ain’t exactly horrible, although kinda redundant after some of the above (see THE DICKIES version). But hey: singer Fat Mike did have the sense to put out the great DESCENDENTS Cool To Be You CD a few years back, so maybe I’m missing out on something special here?

7) Apartment 3-G, “Golden Boys” (Strange Notes comp., Bitzcore, 1994) – If you’re a POISON IDEA spin-off band – and APARTMENT 3-G most definitely are – you got a lifetime free subscription to rock the fuck out of ANY Crash/Pat tune you see fit to.