Friday, April 3, 2009

Music Worth Noticing

Text and still images © Robert Barry Francos
Videos from the Internet

There is a lot of great music out there, though there is a far larger amount of stuff I never need to hear again. That being said, I am listing here a half dozen plus two songs and musicians who never really received the attention they deserved. Many are cult status and definitely have their fans, but never to the level of where they would be appreciated on a mass level. There is something to be said that perhaps it is better that way because then success would not “tarnish” them, a punk sentiment that is sometimes wildly wrong (such as with Husker Du) and sometimes right on (Blondie comes to mind). There is no particular order in which these are listed, and I have no idea how long the links will last, but here ya go:

[B-Girls at CBGBs, 1978]
1. The B Girls – “Fun at the Beach”
The first I saw this Vancouver band play at CBGB was in 1978, opening for the Runaways (just after Cherrie left). Like the band they were opening for, the lead singer would soon leave, and the band would fall apart. This is a shame because similar to the ‘60s surf bands that didn’t surf (e.g., The Trashmen), the B Girls embodied a California sound that they adopted and adapted. Their releases on Bomp! Records are pure pop powerhouse fun.

2. John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett – “Really Free”
Back in the late ‘70s, I had the opportunity to interview John Otway for my fanzine, FFanzeen, thanks to the wonderful Janis Shacht. Wild Willy didn’t come for the U.S. tour, which is hardly surprising since it was to promote John’s first non-Willy release, on Stiff. His show at the Ritz (if I remember correctly) was very lively and filled with motion. Otway is definitely a bigger cult hero in the U.K., with a few hits, and never made much of a dent here. Some of my fave cuts are this one, and “Beware of the Flowers Coz I’m Sure They’re Gonna Get You (Yeah).” A few years ago, Otway came out with a greatest hits album, which has become a regular on my car system, and worth seeking out.

3. Her and Kings County – “My Backyard”
This New York group is young and viable, having recently released their second CD. While listed under the country category, I would hardly call them C&W. This is a fun tune about growing up in the Bronx, being “Fifteen feet from the highway…A million miles from Nashville.” I am glad to have had the opportunity to get to hear them.

[Kim Kane of the Slickee Boys, at CBGB, late '70s]
4. The Slickee Boys – “Ya Gotta Tell Me Why”
I got to watch the Washington D.C.-based Slickee Boys play CBGB a few times in the ‘70s, and they always came across as exciting, in a Fleshtones kind of way (easily seen in this video). Vocalist Mark Noone and guitarist Kim Kane had a driving pop melody that very few have matched.

5. Lopez Beatles – “Bitchen Party”
I’m not sure where I first became away of the Lopez Beatles. It may have been this video airing on Videowave, or the Friday Night Videos program ABC used to air, when Ric Ducommun ran it – or perhaps Tom Kenny – and they showed many off-beat selections (like “”Dog Police” by the Dog Police [] and Billy and the Buttons “Whole Fam Damily”). These brothers are very off kilter in a California punk pop way that make this simply charming and energetic.

[Paula Pierce of the Pandoras, at Irving Plaza, early '80s]
6. The Pandoras – “Hot Generation”
The show where they played Irving Plaza in the early ‘80s was killer. Paula Pierce was fierce in her post-garage period (before the band went more mainstream metal), fueled by Bomp! and the California surf scene. Unfortunately, Paula died of cancer at a very young age, and they never got to reach the level they were probably destined to achieve. Their most popular song is “Stop Pretending,” written about an ex-boyfriend who was a fanzine editor in NYC (and a total dick to me more than once), but this one is closer to the period when I saw them.

7. Sophe Lux – “Target Market”
This video takes a while to get going, but it is most certainly worth the wait. I first became aware of the band when I reviewed their CD for a paper that is long gone. They are certainly Baroque and ethereal, but they certainly don’t come across as pretentious to me. Again, this band is still going strong, and I am sorry to have missed them when they played in New York last year at Joe’s Pub.

8. The Cynics – “Girl, You’re On My Mind”
The Cynics are still going strong after a number of years and personnel changes, though vocalist Michael and guitarist Greg have been steady throughout. I’ve seen them play a few times in New York (and at Maxwell’s in Hoboken). The last time was with Mystic Eyes, led by Bernie Kugel, who coincidentally wrote this song (Mystic Eyes are also on Greg’s Pittsburgh homed label, Get Hip. Just about anything on that label is worth seeking, and this song especially. This is just one of the many amazing videos to be found on the documentary DVD, The Knights of Fuzz.


  1. "Paula died of cancer at a very young age,"

    No, she didn't. She died of a brain aneurysm at age 31.

    And "Stop Pretending" was not written about a fanzine editor from any city or state. It was written about an ex-boyfriend who was the lead singer of a band.

  2. I stand corrected.
    1. Either way, she died too young. She was an exciting performer, and I am glad I had the opportunity to see her play.
    2. Wishful thinking, I guess. Main thing is that it is an excellent song.
    So, be anonymous? Whatcha afraid of, hunh?

  3. I'm not anonymous, but Anonymous is correct.