Posts Tagged ‘Slash Records’

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From their humble beginnings in Lodi, New Jersey in 1977 as a garage band to selling out Madison Square Garden in 2019, the Misfits remain one of the most important bands in the history of punk. blending punk and other musical influences with horror film themes and imagery.
Founded in 1977 by vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist Glenn Danzig, and drummer Manny Martínez. He named the band after actress Marilyn Monroe’s final film, The Misfits Eventually Jerry Only joined on bass guitar and Danzig and Only were the only consistent members throughout the next six years, during which they released several EPs and singles, and with Only’s brother Doyle as guitarist, the albums “Walk Among Us” (1982) was released in March 1982 through Ruby and Slash Records. It was the first full-length Misfits album to be properly released, and the only album to be released while the early incarnation of the band was still active. “Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood” (1983), both considered touchstones of the early-1980s  punk movement.

Heavyweights such as Metallica, Green Day, and Rob Zombie site the Misfits as an influence. Even pop-punk acts such as My Chemical Romance, Alkaline Trio, or Blink 182 wouldn’t exist without the inspiration. Combining elements of hardcore, gothic imagery, and campy horror movie aesthetics, their sound is just as important. Even if you’ve never listened to a single track, odds are you’re familiar with the iconic “Crimson Skull” badge that adorns all their merchandise. It’s arguably just as recognizable as the Rolling Stones’ lips emblem.

Despite their influence and importance, the Misfits don’t have a large body of work.

Without counting the releases recorded after 1983 (the Jerry-fits are weak and the less said about the Michael Graves-lead variation of the Misfits, the better), they only released 2 full-length albums and a handful of singles/EPs. If you’ve never listened to the Misfits but want to know what the fuss is all about,

here are 10 songs that perfectly sums up the experience. 10 songs is a considerable amount of music for a band with under 40 songs! , If you like these songs, you’ll probably be interested in the plethora of music Glenn Danzig was responsible for post-Misfits.

10. “Death Comes Ripping” – Just like the intro to each of the modern reunion shows, “Death Comes Ripping” opens the show with rapid-fire drums, chaotic guitars, and faux-goth lyricism. I can’t think of a better introduction to the world of the Misfits.

9. “Attitude” – There’s an indescribable satisfaction hearing an up-beat pop-punk guitar riff behind lyrics of anger, frustration, and violence as the answer. If you’ve never sung this at the top of your lungs to release the tension of an unforgiving workday, you’re not me.

8. “Where Eagles Dare” – Continuing the theme of major chords and pent up aggression comes this charming little diddy about standing up to the oppression society inflicts on its people. In fact, it just might be the most punk of punk songs ever recorded!

7. “Cough/Cool” – Despite being such an important punk band, the Misfits utilized atmosphere far more than guitars. With keyboards and synthetic rhythms as it’s fuel, “Cough/Cool” is closer to the likes of early Ministry or Depeche Mode (who’d show up long after this song was recorded).

6. “London Dungeon” – Equal parts goth and surf, “London Dungeon” is a black-eyed love song recounting the infamous story of the band being arrested for accusations of grave robbing and thrown in jail while on tour in the UK. This description is textbook Danzig and I adore every second of it.

5. “Die, Die My Darling” – The kiddies will recognize this by the Metallica cover years. And while those dudes do a serviceable version of “Die, Die My Darling”, nothing compares to the atmosphere and raw emotion Glenn and the boys offer up here. As a kid, I always thought the keyboard or guitar riff  (whatever it is doing that beeping sound) was emulating a heart monitor, especially as it fades then abruptly stops at the end.

4. “Hybrid Moments” – As a strong contender for one of their most recognizable melodies, this song sounds just as powerful now as the very first time I heard . It’s not only one of my favorite Misfits tracks, its probably one of my favorite songs period.

3. “American Nightmare” – They don’t call Glenn Danzig the Evil Elvis for nothin’. There really isn’t much more I can say about this track. If you dig old school rock n’ roll seasoned with murderous imagery and gothic swagger, this should be your favorite song

2. “Last Caress” – No matter what anyone says, who compiles it, or who listens, there can’tbe a list of iconic Misfits songs without “Last Caress”. It’s ugly, offensive, and magical when singing along in public while getting all sorts of dirty looks from your peers.

1. “Astro Zombies” – Early 60s chord progression, lyrics referring to a campy B movie, and the most satisfying “whooaaaahs” of any song ever recorded, “Astro Zombies” may not be the best song from the Misfits, but it definitely sums them up in just over 2 minutes. Every sensational second of this song properly represents everything I’ve loved about this band since the moment I was introduced to them all the way to the time I’ll be laid to rest.  Its the perfect combination of IDGAF attitude, ferocious energy, and unmistakable attitude. All presented with a certain self-aware wink as if they’re having just as much fun playing it as we are listening and singing along. If I had to pick a single track to introduce someone to the Misfits, it would be, without question, “Astro Zombies”.

If this playlist is your first introduction to the Misfits, I hope you have a good time as I did when I was first introduced to them.

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Like their peers in the Los Angeles Paisley Underground movement of the '80s, the Long Ryders were a band who swore allegiance to the sounds of the '60s. Hear them at The Constellation Room this Friday!

A 1984 New York Times article on the emerging aesthetic acknowledged genre cowpunk as one of several catch-all terms critics were using to categorize the country-influenced music of otherwise unrelated punk and New Wave bands. The article briefly summarized the music’s history, at least in the United States, saying that in the early 1980’s, several punk and New Wave bands had begun collecting classic country records, and soon thereafter began performing high-tempo cover versions of their favorite songs, and that new bands had also formed around the idea.

By 1984, there were dozens of bands in both the U.S. and England “personalizing country music, several U.S. bands: X, the Blasters, Meat Puppets, Rank and File (playing “an updated version of 1960’s country-rock”), Jason and the Scorchers (with “authentically deep country roots”), and Violent Femmes (at that time incorporating “mountain banjo, wheezing saxophones, scraping fiddle, twanging jew’s harp, and ragged vocal choruses”)

Cowpunk was a catch-all term that critics had come up with to categorize a number of non-mainstream bands and artists who were heavily influenced by country music, but also parlayed their love of blues, roots, and rockabilly, while still keeping their punk, new wave, and/or psychedelic sensibilities close at hand. This emergence was, more or less, a reaction to the over commercialization of synth pop and punk evolving into hardcore. There was also a disdain for the current state of contemporary country music that had become bland, boring, and a hollow shell of its former self. The collective artists in the cowpunk movement were gifted songwriters that were appealing to rural intellectuals as well as finding a home on college radio. There was quite a number of bands that joined the ranks, but due to geographics (among other things), only a select few truly arose out of obscurity where major labels awaited, hoping for the next big cash-in.

The Long Ryders: Rising Phoenix-like out of the the Los Angeles-based band the Unclaimed, the Long Ryders were a major force in the Paisley Underground movement. Mixing their record collections of Gram Parsons, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Beatles, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, The Ryders birthed a unique, jangle pop sound but with an edge that would forever influence the alt-country scene that’s felt even today. Releasing a debut EP titled “10-5-60” in 1983 (and suffering a personnel change), the most well-known line up of the band stabilized afterwords with Sid Griffin, Stephen McCarthy, Tom Stevens, and Greg Sowders. In 1984 they released “Native Sons”, followed by “State Of Our Union” in 1985, and “Two Fisted Tales” in 1987.

Although the band was getting airplay on college radio, they weren’t getting the necessary support from MTV, which was a virtual kiss of death. The viewings of their videos were scarce at best, elbowed out of the way for more Top 40 friendly faces that weren’t sporting mutton chops and suede vests.

This brilliant chart by my pal Pete Frame tells you who the Long Ryders were better than any biog you will ever read.

The group disbanded in 1987, and their reunions have been sparse. Their released output since their demise has been obligatory “Best Of” comps and live recordings. All of the members have stayed active in the music industry in some capacity, including Griffin who has fronted the British-American bluegrass band the Coal Porters since 1991.

Rank and File, I had zero knowledge of this band with a fairly (in my opinion) punk name. The review of “Long Gone Dead” was vague, to say the least, but nevertheless, I made a mental note to look more into this group. In the pre-internet days, this wasn’t going to be done with ease. I perused the cassette section and I found my purchase of the week. I knew I was gambling here, but it had two things in its favour: One, it had been reviewed in Thrasher Magazine, and the other factor, it was on Slash Records, the groundbreaking label out of Los Angeles, CA that was one of the epitomes of musical cool, up there with SST and IRS Records. But something happened on the way to punk rock Valhalla, and it would change the way I would view (or listen) to American music forever.

For some three-chord deliverance, the opening track “Long Gone Dead” was over, I had to focus. Next came “I’m An Old Old Man”, which honestly, didn’t make me feel any better. But by the third song “Sound Of the Rain”, something clicked, and I ventured into an aurally voyeuristic experience that had me rewinding back to the beginning, over and over again. Then I gathered up the courage to listen to the entire recording, front to back, amazed that I didn’t wear it out. Finally, I was converted. But first, I had to find out what this was, because it wasn’t country music in the “Swingin’” sense or in any sense of the genre at all. This was something special, and it was called “Cowpunk”.

Rank and File: Here’s where it all began for me, Rank and File was the musical brain trust of brothers Chip and Tony Kinman who formed the band out of the ashes of their former California-based project The Dils. After migrating to Austin, TX, they hooked up with ex-Nuns member Alejandro Escovedo and released their first album “Sundown” on Slash Records in 1982. Their second release “Long Gone Dead” saw them institute more use of steel guitar and fiddle, and parlaying their love for traditional country music, they covered Lefty Frizzelle’s “I’m An Old Old Man”. For their self-titled swan song, the band went with a more pop-oriented, yet still twangy, sound to try and capture more commercial interest. Unfortunately, it never happened, and the band was dissolved. Afterwords, the Kinmans formed the synth pop experiment Blackbird, then ventured into the alt-country waters with Cowboy Nation.

Jason & the Scorchers: If there was ever to be a symbol of the movement as a whole, then this band should be the one holding the flag. Formed in Nashville, TN in 1981 by Jason Ringenberg, this Molotav Cocktail powerhouse was an amalgamation of ’70s punk bands like the Clash and the Damned fused with the traditional country music stylings of Hank Williams. It didn’t take long for the band to gel and kick out a debut EP fittingly titled “Reckless Country Soul” in 1982 where they paid homage to Hank and even attacked Jerry Falwell within the four tracks. A second EP titled “Fervor” was released the following year, with the video for their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie” getting rotated regularly on MTV and giving them much needed national exposure.

However, commercial success kept eluding Jason and the Scorchers, as rock stations deemed them “too country” and country music stations found them to be “too rock ‘n’ roll”. Two full length albums, “Lost and Found” and “Still Standing” were released to little fanfare, and their label, EMI, dropped them. Going on a three year hiatus, the band returned with “Thunder and Fire” a more heavier and metal-influenced album in 1990 that got mixed and negative reviews. Feeling defeated, the band temporarily fell apart, with Ringenberg going the solo route, even taking on an alter-ego called “Farmer Jason”, Since 1995, Ringenberg has released ten albums to date with various line-ups of The Scorchers, and has seven solo releases under his belt, while original member Warner Hodges has also released solo work and is currently playing in Drivin N Cryin.

The Beat Farmers: Formed in 1983 by the charismatic Country Dick Montana, this San Diego-based group would also come to define the true meaning of cowpunk, with its rockin’ stew of swamp rock, Americana, and rockabilly. Included in the original line-up was Jerry Raney, Rolle Love, and Buddy Blue. In 1984 they won a Battle Of the Bands competition in their hometown, gaining them a cult following throughout Southern California. That same year, they signed a one-off record deal with Rhino Records for what would become their most well-known album, “Tales Of the New West”, released in 1985. One of the singles off this release was “Happy Boy” which received much support and airplay, giving them national exposure, but also pigeonholing them as a novelty act. After a stint in England to record the “Glad ‘N’ Greasy” EP (produced by Graham Parker) for Demon Records, they signed a seven album deal with Curb Records which wasn’t the harmonious relationship they expected. Fed up with working under Curb’s thumb, Buddy Blue quit the band, and was replaced by Joey Harris. The band soldiered on with the label, releasing the single “Make It Last”, and dabbling in side projects and movie soundtrack contributions. Becoming increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with Curb, they found a way out of their contract in 1993, and began releasing albums for the Austin, TX-based label Sector 2. Tragically, Country Dick died of a heart attack during a performance in British Columbia on November 8, 1995. Three days later, the remaining members dissolved the band, eventually going forth and getting involved in other musical projects such as Raney-Blue, the Farmers, the Flying Putos, and Joey Harris and the Mentals, among others. Sadly, Buddy Blue died of a heart attack on April 2, 2006.

Green On Red: Formed in the Tuscon, AZ punk scene in 1979 as the Serfers, Green On Red made their move to Los Angeles and quickly became associated with the Paisley Underground. This heavily psychedelic-influenced four piece included Dan Stuart, Jack Waterson, Van Christian, and eventually Alex MacNicol. In 1982, they self-released an EP known at the time as “Two Bibles”, followed by them getting signed to Slash Records in 1983 to release their first full-length album “Gravity Talks”. Meshing twangy guitars with Ray Manzarek-style keyboard playing, the band sounded like a country version of the Doors, with some Velvet Underground influences, yet still able to churn out tunes that wouldn’t be out of place on a honky tonk jukebox. In 1985, San Francisco-based guitar player Chuck Prophet joined the band for the “Gas Food Lodging” album on Enigma Records, after which MacNicol would be replaced by Keith Mitchell on drums.

After “The Killer Inside Me” was released in 1987, the band called it quits. However, Dan Stuart began collaborating with Prophet in 1989, and the duo released “Here Come the Snakes” under the Green On Red name. Three more albums were released with their swan song “Too Much Fun” getting released in 1992. Since that time, the band has participated in numerous reunions under different line-ups.

Lone Justice: Fronted by the gifted and talented Maria McKee and backed by the tight unit of Ryan Hedgecock, Marvin Etzioni, and Don Heffington, Lone Justice’s blend of country rock, rockabilly, and punk, made them a popular draw on the Los Angeles bar scene. So much so, that Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fame was a frequent guest at their gigs for like-minded jamming. Gaining a reputation as a band that you had to get out and see and exposure in music periodicals brought them to the attention of Linda Ronstadt who helped them get signed to Geffen Records. They released their self-titled debut in 1985, followed by the single and video of “Ways To Be Wicked”, co-written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. A second single, “Sweet, Sweet Baby” was released, along with a support slot on a tour with U2, but with all of this going for them, the album just wasn’t selling. Even though critics loved it and placed it on their “Best Of” polls, the public wasn’t buying it. In the wake of this disaster, McKee’s bandmates jumped ship and she was almost forced to call the band “A-Lone Justice”. Hiring an all-new line-up, the new Justice hit the studio with E-Streeter Little Steven Van Zandt for the second album “Shelter”, which fared worse than its predecessor, abandoning the band’s original roots rock sound for a more typical pop/rock feel with synthesizers and drum machines, foreign objects to bands of this caliber. With its dismal sales, “Shelter” became the band’s Waterloo, and McKee broke up the band. Eventually, she would release solo material.

Finally It would be remiss if I didn’t mention Los Lobos. Although they weren’t cowpunk, they were and still are, champions and survivors of the music industry and true representatives of the roots rock movement. Having made one of their first public appearances in Los Angeles opening for Public Image, Ltd., in 1980, they were gathering enough attention that by the time they released their EP “…And A Time To Dance”, the 50,000 copies sold out. Now possessing some capital, they hit the road and toured all over the U.S. Their clout got them back in the studio in 1984 for their breakthrough album “How Will the Wolf Survive?”, released on Slash Records. With the release of the single and video of “Will the Wolf Survive?”, the band was making a statement on their struggles trying to gain success in the States while maintaining their Mexican heritage. After releasing their next album “By the Light Of the Moon” in 1987, they contributed several songs to the film and soundtrack of “La Bamba”, which the title track hit the number one spot on the singles chart. Los Lobos has since continued to tour with a diverse mix of artists, released numerous albums and singles, appeared in films, and all along the way, they’ve stayed true to their roots. Will the wolf survive? They sure as hell did…

There were scores of other bands that either flirted with or were wholeheartedly part of the cowpunk family tree. Now they would be more commonly associated with the “roots rock” banner than cowpunk, which today sounds antiquated to most rock historians. The Blasters, the Gun Club, the Cramps, the Del Fuegos, X, the Lazy Cowgirls, Blood On the Saddle, Mojo Nixon and others are held in the highest regard to music buffs that enjoy true American rock ‘n’ roll.

Interestingly enough, two performers who came along in the midst of the cowpunk movement have been churning out successful albums throughout the years since they were categorized in this genre. Dwight Yoakam was viewed as a “punk in cowboy boots”, brandishing a traditional Bakersfield sound on his “Guitars, Cadillacs,” album in 1986, earning him a shunning from country radio stations who found him “too traditional”. And Steve Earle, who felt more comfortable around punks as opposed to rednecks was also viewed with disdain with his 1986 album “Guitar Town”, which was considered “too rock”.

Also check out The Blasters, X/The Knitters, Danny and Rusty, Dwight Yoakam, Violent Femmes and Rosie Flores,