Wednesday, July 8, 2009
L.A. Punk Vol. 2- The Weirdos
The Weirdos were one of the most unique bands to come out of the first wave of L.A. punk. They formed in 1976 with the original lineup of John and Dix Denney, Cliff Roman, Dave Trout, and Nickey Beat.
Note: Nickey Beat also did stints with The Cramps, The Germs, The Dickies, and later the L.A. Guns. On top of all of that, as the reigning king of L.A. punk drumming, he filled in on drums for just about every early L.A. punk band when they needed it. At the famous Masque Benefit show at the McArthur Park Elk's Lodge in 1978 he played with at least 3 bands: The Weirdos, The Germs, and The Bags. He also got some face time on the big screen in Penelope Spheeris' punk classic Suburbia as the dorky concert promoter who stops the show when the girl gets her clothes torn off.
According to the liner notes of the CD reissue of Destroy All Music/Who What When Where Why?, the inspiration for the band came from Cliff Roman seeing The New York Dolls and the Stooges at The Whiskey A Go Go, on separate occasions. In 1977 they told Slash magazine, "We're not punks, we're weirdos from Hollyweird." They were punks though, just not playing the kind of music anyone had ever heard before. There were bands in L.A. that had a very heavy New York punk influence and there were bands who obviously worshiped the British bands but the Weirdos were just the Weirdos. Everyone who was their at the time knew immediately that they were special. The infamous Kickboy Face of Slash magazine wrote in 1978, "The Weirdos are one of the most important things to come out of L.A. for a while." Alice Bag of early L.A. punk band The Bags, said this on her website, www.alicebag.com, about the first time she saw them, "The Germs opened the show. They played horribly, but were funny and very interesting to watch. The Zeros played a rocking set, but it was the Weirdos who brought down the house. When they were done playing people were screaming for more."
Here is an annotated discography(to the best of my ability) of the Weirdos recorded output:
Destroy All Music b/w A Life of Crime, Why Do You Exist
This, the Weirdos' debut, was released on Bomp! Records in 1977. The three songs comprising this 7" EP, "Destroy All Music," "A Life Of Crime," and "Why Do You Exist" were all recorded in August of 1977, just a month after the Germs released their first single on What? Records. "Destroy All Music" is a loud, fast, and completely UN-sloppy punk rock song and the double guitar onslaught of Dix Denney and Cliff Roman was never done better than on this particular song. On top of all that the vocals are incredibly catchy. "A Life of Crime" is a little slower, and has a bit of a Stooges feel deep down. "Why Do You Exist" is even faster than the title track and the music is a bit like early Johnny Thunders but twice as fast.
We Got the Neutron Bomb b/w Solitary Confinement
This was the Weirdos second single, recorded November of 1977, and released by the legendary Dangerhouse label. "We Got The Neutron Bomb" is one of the catchiest songs to come out of the entire L.A. punk scene. Its got fast and powerful verses, and a brilliantly catchy singalong chorus all set to loud, heavy guitars, once again provided by the team of Dix and Cliff. Around the same time, another early L.A. punk band, one that has not retained the popularity of other bands like the Weirdos and the Germs, called the Controllers had a song called "Neutron Bomb." Once the Weirdos released this single and gained the attention which the song would give them the Controllers changed the name of their song to "(The Original) Neutron Bomb." "Solitary Confinement" is another great early Weirdos song that would have fit beautifully on the first 7". If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Who? What? When? Where? Why? EP
This 6 song EP was recorded in February of 1979 and released, once again, on Bomp! Records. By 1979, the band's sound had evolved along with their lineup. Nickey Beat and Dave Trout were gone, and instead Danny Benair (formerly of L.A. rock legends The Quick who had just recently broken up in '78) was on drums, and Billy Ford Persons was playing bass. On this EP they slowed down a bit and the band was incorporating more rock and roll into their songs, in fact, "Big Shot" has a saxophone and "Jungle Rock" is a straight up rockabilly raveup originally written and recorded by Hank Mizell in the 1950's (I'd like to think the Weirdos were influenced by X, The Cramps, The Blasters, and The Gun Club to venture into rockabilly). The opening track, "Happy People" and the closing track, "Fort U.S.A." are the strongest on the EP. "Happy People" is a slower version of the early Weirdos sound. It's got the two guitar attack, catchy choruses, and its loud and heavy, it just happens to not be as fast as "Destroy All Music." "Fort U.S.A." is as catchy a song as they've ever written. The chorus is a total singalong, and the guitars are very early rock/NY Dolls influenced.
Message from the Underworld b/w Teenage
From what I understand, this is their 3rd single, recorded in July of 1980. I haven't been able to find any info about this single, and what I did find was ambiguous. I found what I think is the cover art, but the liner notes to the Weird World CD lists the song "Message from the Underworld" as previously unreleased. Either way, the title track is a great song. It is very reminiscent of the original Weirdos sound but with their modern approach. I've never heard the single version of "Teenage," as far as I know it's not available on CD, but there are two demo versions out there on Weird World from 1978 and Destroy All Music from 1977. It was one of the first songs the band wrote and its snotty lyrics and loud, fast musicianship are a perfect pairing.
This, The Weirdos' second EP, was recorded in June 1980 and released on Rhino Records. It would be their last release before they broke up in 1981 (though they reformed throughout the 1980's and recorded an album in 1990, nothing after this initial breakup will be covered in this blog). The EP consists of four songs, the first of which being "The Hideout." The song is slow and very dark. There isn't much in these recordings which resemble the early Weirdos sound. This is much more of a rock song with a punk influence, especially in the drumming. The second song, "I Feel" is even more of a straight ahead rock and roll song, very much like the garage rock/powerpop thing going on at the time with bands like The Real Kids. It's a fun, upbeat toe-tapper of a rock song. Next up is a cover in which the band pays respect to L.A. legends, The Doors, not unlike the Weirdos' contemporaries X who covered "Soul Kitchen" on their 1980 debut album Los Angeles. The Weirdos take on "Break On Through" and they do it very well. Ending the album is the frenetic rock and roll of "Helium Bar." The band takes on the rockabilly sound once again, except unlike "Jungle Rock" on their first EP, this one's fast as hell. The only lyrics are "Bop to helium bar tonight" repeated over and over again but it never gets annoyingly repetitive. It's a great way to end their last EP.
Weird World vol. 1
This is the first CD which takes on the task of compiling the Weirdo's catalog. It contains bits and pieces of every release discussed above, plus 7 demo recordings from 1977-1981. It goes in reverse chronological order, and starts with 3 previously unreleased demos from March of 1981. The songs are "Weird World," "Arms Race," and "Pagan." Next up is "Helium Bar" from the Action-Design EP. After that are two songs from a 1980 demo, "Rhythm Syndrome," and "Fallout." The next two songs are "Fort U.S.A." and "Happy People" from Who? What? When? Where? Why?, however, "Fort U.S.A." is an alternate mix. Next is "Message From the Underworld" followed by "Teenage" and "I'm Not Like You" from a demo session recorded in 1978. The CD ends with both sides of their second single, "We Got The Neutron Bomb" (which is another alternate mix) and " Solitary Confinement," and "Life of Crime" from the Destroy All Music 7". This is a great compilation and covers their entire career up until the initial breakup, however, it is only 36 minutes long and that is inexcusable when there were B sides and even A sides left off this release. They could have fit at least the rest of the Destroy All Music single, the B side to the "Message From the Underworld" single, and more from the 2 EP's. As a bit of a neurotic completist, it bothers me. However, the demo tracks are really cool so they kind of make up for that.
We Got The Neutron Bomb: Weird World vol. 2
This set compiles previously unreleased live performances and studio recordings from 1977-1989. I don't own it, but it seems to contain material mostly from the original band, and only a few from the reformed, late 80's version of the Weirdos.
Destroy All Music CD
This CD reissue from Bomp! Records compiles the entire Destroy All Music single, the entire Who? When? When? Where? Why? EP, and 4 songs from their very first demo recorded in 1977. The demo songs are "Teenage," "Destroy All Music," "A Life Of Crime," and "Why Do You Exist?"