Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Ken’s Eye View: THE SLICKEE BOYS [1982]

Text by Kenne Highland / FFanzeen, 1982
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2019
Images from the Internet

This article was published in FFanzeen, issue #9, dated 1982, by ex-O. Rex, ex-Gizmos, ex-Afrika Korps, ex-the Korps, ex-Hopelessly Obscure, ex-Johnny and the Jumper Cables, ex-Kenne Highland Puppets, ex-the Cryptic Edge, ex-the Grovellers, ex-the Psycho Daisies, ex-Kenne Highland and His Vatican Sex Kittens, Kenne Highland (now known as Kenneth Highland).

The Slickee Boys were definitely a great band, no question. I saw them play (MAG III, in Highland terms) a couple of times at CBGBs, and they were always fun to watch. Honestly, I was a bit jealous of Kim Kane, because he was about the same weight as me, thin as I was, but he was much, much taller, so was even more gaunt.

As for Kenne, I hung out with him quite a few times in the first half of the 1980s, when I would go visit Boston twice a year for long weekends (Memorial Day and Labor Day). It was there that I mentioned about something being “hopelessly obscure,” an expression he loved enough to name his band after it (hence the multiple use of the term in the article). The whole Romeo and Juliet thing he mentions is based on a tale I told him about my high school (find it in HERE). 

Kenne is not what one might call PC. His copious use of words that many will find offensive come off from him as just that, descriptive words used to incite; besides, this is 1981, before the word “Oriental” was deemed offensive (one of my local movie theaters in Brooklyn was named the Loew’s Oriental). As for the Italian descriptor, I never use it, as I grew up in Bensonhurst.

I have a large bunch of postcards from Kenne while he was in the Marines in the late ‘70s, and
all of them are dated 1966 or ’67, so I’m never really sure when they are from; but it does explain some of the comments made here.

The last time I saw Kenne was about a decade ago, while his Vatican Sex Kittens band was playing in Brooklyn at Hank’s Saloon, sharing a bill with the wonderful Canadian band, the Poisoned Aeros. – Robert Barry Francos, 2019
* * *
Editor’s note (i.e., me) from 1982:
Having known Kenne a while now, I can honestly say that this article is identical to the way he speaks – I’ll go as far as to say the way he thinks! There are places where a [sic] would have been appropriate, but if I added them in every place they belong, I think this article would be twice as long! If you wish to further info on anything here, write to Kenne care of
Boston Groupie News [they are on Facebook now, HERE  – RBF, 2019], where he writes a semi-regular column. Kenne is a great guy in my book, and it’s not for no reason he’s known in Boston and around everywhere else simply as Krazee Kenne.

I. Hot! And Cool! (1976-1977)

It was Elizabeth’s fault – she introduced Kim Kane to Marshall Keith. The two giz-tarits met Xmas of ’75 and noodled and doodled, begetting the band Turquoise I-Flats (with an acetate that rivaled Virgin releases). A long-running joke on Steve Lorber’s WGTB radio show in Georgetown (D.C.) was of a ‘60s obscure band called the Slickee Boys, only requests became so intense that Kim and Marshall recruited Martha Hull (vocals), Andy Von Brand (bass) and Chris Rounds (drums) from the band Loneoak, to form a one-shot band by that name.

The Slickee Boys practiced six times and on 6/76, went into the studio and recorded their Hot! And Cool! EP, on Dagoit Records. Kim grew up in Asia nurturing an Oriental fetish; “slickee boy” is Korean for punk and “dagoit” is Burmese for bandit. The EP had four great ‘60s covers, ranging from British R&B (Downliner Sect’s “Brand New Cadillac” and Yardbird’s “Psycho Daisies”) to local ‘60s punk (Hangmen’s “What a Boy Can’t Do”) to an instrumental (Marshall’s guitar sounds like Jeff Beck-meets-Steve Howe on “Exodus”), to Kim’s lone original (“Manganese Android Puppies”), which coined the phrase “Slickeedelic.” Martha’s voice really sounds like Grace Slick in her prime, and Kim’s melody owes a lot to Quicksilver’s “Pride of Man.”

I saw this version of the Slickee Boys innumerable times the first half of 1977, but come June, the rhythm section split: Chris over music direction and Andy to attend law school. Before they went, they recorded the Separated Vegetables LP. One side was Slickeedelic originals by Kim, Martha and Marshall, while the other side was recorded live at the Keg (and not one of the better performances I saw by Slickee Boys MAG I, but a documentary nonetheless). At this time, Kim, Marshall and Martha were session guest stars on the Afrika Korps’ debut LP, Music to Kill By, with Kim writing two songs and Martha singing the best ones.

II. Mersey, Mersey Me! (1978)

Photo by RBF
The Afrika Korps gig at Ft. Meade, Maryland, 9/77, also unleased a horrific debut by Slickee Boys MAG II w/ Howard Wuelfing (from the Look) on bass and Dan Palenski (from the Derbies) on drums. Subsequent practices and many opening gigs for the Razz at the Back Room in the University of Maryland College Grill unloaded what, to me, was the most eclectic – but again short-lived – version of the Slickee Boys. With the addition of Howard’s unique talent of writing catchy pop melodies with Lour Reed eclecticism, four out of five Slickees were now writing! Only one problem: like the Beatles, everyone’s songs were definitely their particular songs; plus they were all pretty mellow, experimental things.

The Mersey, Mersey Me EP, released Summer of 1978, is a clear example of what I mean. It opens with another Kim Kane weirdo classic called “Put a Bullet Through the Jukebox” (originally the flip of a hopelessly obscure tape – i.e., two copies made – recorded especially for my wedding). “Bullet” is an anti-disco number (hey, this was back in the days of punk 1977) and features innumerable references to myself, which I dug greatly. Next up was a cover of the Grass Roots’ “Live For Today,” which has the chorus sung in wop “Yo, Juliet!” “Who cawls?” “Yuh Mutha!”) by engineer Don Zientara. Side two opens with another hopelessly obscure Talking Heads tune, “The Girls Rather Be with the Girls,” which Howeird culled from a Talking Heads practice and loads better than the version the Jealous Heads released on (No) More Songs About Buildings and Food. (What Goes On.) The EP ends with Howard’s masterwork, “Heart On” (which Tina Peel subsequently covered [Tina Peel would transform into the Fuzztones shortly after this was published – RBF, 2019]). The reason the “Mersey” melody works so fine is that it’s stolen from two Hermits songs!

III. Gotta Tell Me Why (1979)

Photo by RBF
Memorial Day ’78, Howard quit and formed the Nurses, while Martha quit a couple of months later for the DCeats, with her boyfriend/guitarist Keith Campbell (not before making their debut on the second Korps LP, Hello World, where Martha turned in a pisser performance on “(I Wanna) Burnout,”  which she covered with both the DCeats and her current band, the Steady Jobs). With another 40% Slickee Boy loss, Dan and Marshall packed it in, leaving Kim Kane holding the bag that Fall, but true to fanatical form, Kim soon recruited two more boys and Marshall, and Dan rejoined (or something like that; the Marine Corps was hopping me between Maryland, Massachusetts and Suck Carolina that Fall, so I may as well have been on Mars!).

I first saw the Slickee Boys MAG III on the tenth anniversary of Woodstock at Ft. Reno Park 8/15/79, and though I wondered how bassist Emory Olexa and signer Mark Noone would fit in three years on, things are lots better going than previous Slickee incarnations. By now, the Slickees were covering three of my songs (see, my legacy was gone but not forgotten!): these tunes were “Jailbait Janet” by the Afrika Korps (Tina Peel do it, too), “Mean Scream” by the Gizmos, and “Dynamite,” which woulda been on the third Korps LP if the USMC hadn’t switched me to SC where I (shudder) played bass in an all-Marine heavy metal band.

Fall ’79 brought what to me was the best Slickees LP since Hot! And Cool!, mostly coz it had another groovy Downliner Sect cover (“Glendora”). Also repeated was the Mark Noon-sung “Golden Love,” which Martha sang on Separated Vegetables, and a good performance, despite the competition. Side one (geez, that was side two – ass backwards!) opens with Mark Noone’s “Gotta Tell Me Why” – actually a Boston radio classic up here! Mark sings like Bryan Ferry over a “Sonic Reducer” lick. “Forbidden Alliance” is also super-cool, lyric-wise!

IV. The Brain That Refused to Die (1980)

Got to catch the Slickees live again at Danceteria, opening for the Blasters 10/4/65 (I mean ’80!) and if you New York punks reading this rag missed it, you deserve Lydia (Lose Your) Lunch! Slickees only got one set, but they also had their new 45 which, unfortunately, didn’t come up to where they are live – I mean, Slickee Boys MAG III is such a pisser live act that you won’t think me insane when I call them my favorite band! (And they’re up there with the Lyres / the soon-to-be defunct Taxi Boys / the now-defunct Insect Surfers / the Chesterfield Kings / Tina Peel / the Runes / the Dawgs…)

But “The Brain That Refused to Die” is still pretty neat. Kim Kane came up with this pseudo-Cramps riff one practice and it eventually turned into a pseudo-Cramps type song (or everyone in the Afrika Korps told me it would, though that was with Miriam [Linna, the original Cramps drummer – RBF 2019], but the Slickees – and Kim especially – have turned out better songs. In fact, true to form, I love the hopelessly obscure live cover (production by Chance and we don’t mean James!) of the chocolate Watchband’s “Are You Gonna Be There at the Love-In.” I remember it being better, tho, at the Psychedelly 8/17/69, when me and famed Rock Institute Duce Joe Sasby pogoed and threw peace sings – Joe actually was there at the Love-in (Woodstock, of course!), but doesn’t remember it; musta been too much Rock Therapy). Still, all peeps should buy “The Brain That Refused to Die” / “Are You Gonna Be there.” I found four in a Nuwave bargain bin at a buck apiece, but two other geeks beat me to ‘em! (Musta been Juliet!). And Kim Kane’s cover art is typically weird as he is; trashy pop culture with Oriental overtones.

V. The Slickee Boys – Here to stay (1981… or is it ’66?)

Caught MAG III Slickees again on Spring break ’81, when they played the University of Maryland. Kim Kane and I, and his groovy girlfriend Carole Albert (whadda doll!) were driving thru the campus and Kimbo mutters, “College kids, college kids – I want a little mustache like the college kids.” I wrote the tune in ten minutes backstage, stole a bunch of Pebbles licks and recorded it Labor Day ’66, with this rag’s publisher on sheer ‘60s maracas! [That was the Hopelessly Obscure, recorded just a few blocks from the Rat. It was me and Donna Lethal on maracas and handclaps, if I remember correctly; I still have the demo cassette somewhere… – RBF, 2019.]

Which brings me to “Here to Stay” / “Porcelain,” the current Slickees ‘66; again, great Oriental cover art with a samurai Slickee and the (a-sexual) side is a true pop classic by Mark and Marshall, which gets airplay every day in Boston (a former Beauracrats roadie bought it last week due to my incessant ravings and wearing of a hopelessly obscure Slickees t-shirt (100 made) – felt the 45 sounded like Pastiche (a fine pop-art band) really letting loose for once, but  just that Mark Noone and Ken Scales come from the Bryan Ferry School of Warbling. But my heart belongs to “Porcelain” coz Kim wrote this fuzzy four-note lick and you know he was listening so hard to his Pebbles LPs.

In fact, “Porcelain China Kittens” (or whatever it’s called; ask Joe Bagdady of the Runes what Costume Jewelry means!) is s’posed to be the follow-up to “Manganese Android Puppies,” and it is truly Kim’s greatest classic since then. I was there for the mixing by ex-Razz bassist Ted Nicely, even!

But hey, folks! Hold the presses! On the 13 of August 1966, the Voxx Battle of the Bands played New York (lack of advance ticket sales in Little New York – a/k/a Boston – cancelled the 15th gig). Slickee Boys played with Chesterfield Kings and ‘Kings do “Are You Gonna Be There,” which leads into Slickees doing “Glendora” /“Going All the Way” (the Squires!) on Bomp’s Battle of the Bands LP.

It’s like 1966 never left with the Slickee Boys!

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