Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Land of the Lost Bands

What makes a band click and become popular? Who knows, we've all had groups we love go nowhere, and groups that suck completely become wildly successful. I'm talking to you Matchbox 20.

Lately, and I'll explain why further down, I've been thinking about some real unknowns from the early '80's that bored their way into my skull.

The Mosquitos were a killer band from those days, garage rock, Pebbles-LP style, with a touch of British Invasion. Plus, they had complete cultural cred by naming themselves after a combo that appeared in a Gilligan's Island episode. Catch them live here - For those who aren't in the know, Pebbles was a multi-volume set of records filled with rare gems of the mid-60's garage era, as influential a source for early 1980's bands as Harry Smith's Anthology of American Music was for the folkies of the 1950's and early 1960's.

The Milkshakes kicked ass, generated a rough early Mersey sound, like The Beatles at The Cavern or The Big Three, a Liverpool trio that never achieved the polish (or skill) of The Fab Four. Led by artistic raconteur Billy Childish, the 'Shakes were raw and completely stylized, real throwbacks.

In my never ending pursuit to establish some sort of writing career, I've had the good fortune of meeting very interesting and cool people. Mike Shatzkin is a publishing maven and fellow traveller in the worlds of rock and roll and baseball, although with a much richer resume.

When we spoke, he mentioned early on that he and his wife had managed a rock group in the early '80's.

"Would I know them?" I asked.

"Were you around here in 1983?" he answered.

"Yeah I went to SUNY-Binghamton."

"Did you ever hear of The Drongos?"

Electric current shot down my spine. The first time I saw The Drongos they were playing on the streets of lower Manhattan. To my recollection they were playing on Broadway in the summer of 1981 next to a dumpster, but there infectious pop had the crowd mesmerized and unaware of the nasty surroundings. "Don't Touch Me," written by drummer Stanley Mitchell is a great unknown pop classic. Richard Kennedy was a twitchy, energetic presence on guitar and vocals.

A year later, I think, they played Binghamton, where I bought their 45 (pictured right and left). Kennedy is still out there, plugging away. Mike wrote about the group ( ) and a clip of Richard singing The Drongos signature song can be found there. I'd direct you to You Tube for it, but I want you to read the blog first.

The joys of networking. Sometimes it brings you to kindred spirits that you wouldn't have otherwise encountered. Sometimes it brings you back to a long forgotten pleasure.

1 comment:

mike clabby said...

The Drongos! I still have echoes of "(She was a) Lower East Side Substance Abuser" ringing in my ears. Summer of 1983, Liberty Park next to the Merrill Lynch building. I had sold my soul to the company store, but somehow some light shone at lunchtime when I could squat on the cement in my Sy Syms suit and enjoy a lunch of hot dogs from the cart and a quick Drongos set. I have an LP from the era, I think purchased at Pier Platters in Hoboken.