Monday, August 31, 2015

A Fuselage Called SHRAPNEL [1983]

Text by Diane DeVito / FFanzeen, 1983
Introduction by Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Shrapnel were a fun – albeit jingoistic – band, being straight ahead basic rock’n’roll, if you could picture a mash-up of the Ramones and the Dictators. Stripped down and raw, this electric group called CBGB’s its home. It was there I saw them a couple of times, and they didn’t disappoint.

After Shrapnel, lead singer Dave Wyndorf, the focus on the interview, would go on to form and front the popular Monster Magnet, with bassist Phil Caivano. Drummer Dan Clayton would join Mayday Parade. David Vogt passed away a number of years ago. Daniel Rey would produce three Ramones albums, be the guitarist on Joey’s last solo LP, and replace Top Ten as rhythm guitarist for the various incarnations of the Dictators. Their manager, Michael Alago, would go on to be a music executive and photographer who would sign the likes of Metallica and White Zombie.

This article was originally published in FFanzeen, issue #11, dated 1983. It was credited to Diane DeVito, but it was actually by the Managing Editor of the magazine, Julia Masi. She did so much writing for us, we both agreed to use the occasional pseudonym. – RBF, 2015

What’s faster than a speeding bullet? More powerful than a locomotive? Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s… it’s a rock’n’roll band? Shrapnel, fighting a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.

David Wyndorf, alias mild-mannered lead singer / songwriter for Shrapnel, says, “We’re American guys. We’re an American band. So we use a star. I like the star ‘cause it’s on Captain America’s shield,” confesses Dave, the truth finally apparent.

Ace reporter that I am, I wouldn’t want to reveal Captain America’s secret identity, but one is tempted to look about and see if there’s a telephone booth nearby into which Dave could run to change into his other outfit, the red, white and blue one. The Captain America one.

Shrapnel is Wyndorf, vocals; Daniel Rey, guitar; David Vogt, rhythm guitar; Dan Clayton, drums; and Phil Caivano, bass. They are a comic book band, like Blondie and the Ramones. Joey Ramone even contributed some neat vocals on the band’s single, “Combat Love.”

Shrapnel’s beginnings were more than a little controversial. They played CBGB and other Lower East Side hangouts, and were building quite a following. But then – things began to sour. They were caught in the crossfire of negative New York press. The accusations flew. The Village Voice labelled the band, “proto-fascists and neo-Nazis,” in response to Shrapnel’s army garb and militarist lyrics.

Wyndorf now views the situation with a grain of salt: “At first I laughed. I could see the writer sitting the other way and staring at the wall. Hell, writers must have a hard time sitting there thinking about stuff to write about. [It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it – dd.]

“Because I had black boots on, they said, ‘Yankee militarist.’ Which wasn’t bad, you know, but neo-Nazi’s? Come on!”

Shrapnel has since shed their army attire. “I felt like a hypocrite after a while…we go out and sing these songs we wrote when we were drunk, [shouts] ‘Kill, kill, kill / John Wayne is God,’ and fling G.I. Joes around. The purpose was to get people mad (which they did), which was real fun.” It was comical, almost vaudevillian-like.

When the mood strikes, Shrapnel still does “Chrome Magnum Man,” and used a “bomb” as a stage prop. Michael (Alago, Shrapnel’s manager and all-around good guy) hates it. “It’s a song about a little kid who gets to turn into a giant super-hero. And throw a bomb around.” All in fun, you know. But something tells me Dave is that little kid, who is transformed into a super-hero.

“I like super-heroes. I can’t help it. I still like ‘em.” Dave’s in good company. Another rock hero, Ray Davies, is a super-hero fan. He wanted to fly like “Superman” and heard “Captain America Calling.”
Dave does not think Shrapnel has reached the caliber of rock-hero. Yet. “A rock-hero; I’d like to be a rock-hero, man, rock-hero, like on the cover of Circus magazine.

Shrapnel does fit the comic book hero persona. “I’d love it to be like that. I’d love to work it so we’re a bunch of crazy atom-age kids lost in a world we never made.” Sounds like a scene from a comic strip. Are you listening Marvel?

Click to enlarge
Marvel Comics did take notice. Shrapnel appeared in the 1980 Spider-Man Annual. Dave considers it “our crowning achievement.”

Presently, Shrapnel will be shopping around their tape, which includes two new songs, “Hope for Us All” and “Crime.” Record labels take note.

“’Hope for Us All’ is my song,” smiles Dave. “It’s a tribute to the human spirit. It’s a real optimistic song. ‘Ha! We know where you’re going, pal,’” he kids. A more serious expression appears, “But that’s the way I felt. I was watching some movie about some guy making it as a Broadway star and it was so great! You know there’s hope for us all. If this sluck [loosely translated as “jerk”] can do it, I can.”

At that moment, I believed he could, and so did Cap! Good night, Captain America, wherever you are. Dave, pass me the funnies.

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