Wednesday, April 5, 2023

A Lot O’ BLOTTO (1981)

© Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1981/2023
Images from the Internet unless indicated

My pal Dennis Concepcion, who turned me onto Blotto, came with me when I went to interview the group at a club on Long Island. Backstage was a weird mix of calm stillness and pandemonium. Their comments on past members is a bit harsh, in my opinion, but the band played on, and they were pretty much self-deprecating anyway, so I took that as the band’s “personality.” After the interview was over, but before they went onstage to play, two members whipped out a chess board and were deeply into it. On the other hand, being a smart ass, I mentioned to Cheese Blotto (d. 1999) that perhaps he should shave his head as he was noticeably balding. Not only did he do it right then and there with one of those tiny travel razors, Dennis documented it with photographic evidence. The pictures are included in the original article, and as far as I know, Cheese remains curds-less.

This interview was published in FFanzeen, No. 8, dated 1981. – RBF, 2023

Rear: Bowtie, Lee Harvey, Sarge
Front: Broadway, Cheese

A Lot O’ Blotto

Rock’n’roll. Blitz. New Romanticism. Punk. Psychedelic Revival. New Wave. Cabaret’n’roll?!


There appears to be a new trend in rock’n’roll which refused to take itself seriously a-toll. Out on the West Coast, there is a group called the Toons, who sing of “Roast Chicken Faces”; in New York City, there’s Junk Rock, who explain the virtues of being a “Sanitation Man.”; and from Albany, NY, there is the more popular leader of this movement, named Blotto.


Blotto came into prominence two years ago with the hit, “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” [which still airs on the radio and weather reports every summer to this day – RBF, 2023], which was played ad nauseam in, in seemed, every club (though the outer boroughs still cheer when it comes up). That cut was off a four-song 12” EP which sold quite well for an independent label, titled Hello! My Name is Blotto, What’s Yours? At that time, the lineup was Broadway Blotto (Bill Polchinski; vocals/guitar), Bowtie Blotto (Paul Jossman; vocals/guitar), Blanche Blotto (Helena Binder; keyboards/vocals), Sergeant Blotto (Greg Haymes, d. 2019; vocals/percussion), Cheese Blotto (Keith Stephenson; bass), and Lee Harvey Blotto (Paul Rapp; drums).


The next year (that is, the last from now), a new EP hit the stands, sans Blanche, with Chevrolet Blotto taking over the keyboards, titled Across and Down. Although none of the songs reached the cult status of “Lifeguard,” the four songs on it were consistently good in their own, bizarre ways.


Now the present, and the release of a new record, this time a 7” 45.


There have been quite a few people who have been onto me because I think these guys are okay. Well, hell, they like what they’re doing: acting a bit irreverent and making damn asses of themselves. Sure, it’s not mainstream rock’n’roll-whatever, but the point is that they are not trying to claim they are. Nothing pretentious here, just a lot of fun.


What amazed me was the fact that they use their stage names all the time, even among themselves. Very weird.


As a rule, they are nice guys, but a bitch to interview. It was nearly impossible to get a straight answer from them. In fact, what follows, is all that was coherent of a ninety-minute interview.


Broadway Blotto: Our new single will be out soon. “When the Second Feature Starts” is on the A-side, and on the B-side is a song called “The B-side.”


FFanzeen: How original!
Broadway: Somebody had to do it!
Sergeant Blotto (Sarge): We figured it was better than running the same song backwards. Like Napoleon XIV [“They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Ha” – Ed, 1981].


FFanzeen: Why a single instead of the usual EP?
Broadway: Why not?! It’s cheaper.
Sarge: Now we can play them in jukeboxes at diners, by the eclairs on the counters. Also, with a song like “B-Side,” you can’t put that on the back of an EP.
Broadway: And also, after we put out our last EP, we said, “We’re not putting out any more EPs. It’s either albums or a single.”


FFanzeen: Why not an album?
Lee Harvey Blotto: We wanted to do a single.
Broadway: You can’t put an album on a jukebox either.


FFanzeen: They used to have a shorter album on the jukebox. They were called EPs. [All laugh]
Lee Harvey: One’s like Frankie Valli.
Broadway: I like Frankie Valli. He’s my favorite.
Sarge: He was okay.
Lee Harvey: Was? Isn’t he still alive?


FFanzeen: That’s debatable. [That was meant career-wise; as of this writing, FV is still alive – RBF, 2023].
Sarge: I don’t know – check the list behind you. [Written on the wall of the club where the interview is taking place is a list of dead rock’n’rollers – Ed., 1981]
Broadway: You mean, “All the people who died, died?”
Sarge: Yeah. “All my friends, they died, died.”
Lee Harvey: Or the sequel, “People who lived.”
Broadway: We were going to put out a song, “People who Dine, Dine.”
Lee Harvey: Did you hear about that band playing, the Dead Lennon?


FFanzeen: Yeah, from Boston.
Lee Harvey: Well, they used to be on Lawrence Welk, didn’t they?
Broadway: Yes, until they died. Arrrggghhh.
Sarge: Then they decomposed.


FFanzeen: Did you ever notice that the music for the chorus of “People Who Died” is identical with “Red Hot”?
Broadway: Yeah [sings “Red Hot”:]. “My gal has died, died” [laughs]. Have you seen the video tape from “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard”? It was filmed at various shoe stores and lakes in Upstate New York.


FFanzeen: The song came out two years ago. Isn’t it a bit late now?
Broadway: Hey, we’re timely guys.
Lee Harvey: It’s kind of a statement because, like, Albany is two years behind everything and we were just noting the other day that Legs Diamond, the gangster, was shot in Albany two or three years after all the gangland slayings in Chicago and New York had taken place. People had already forgotten it and went on to new things, like baseball and other pastimes. So, that’s why our video tape is two years late. Plus, the fact that some guys came up and said, “Hey, we want to do a video tape of you guys and it won’t cost you anything,” and we said, “Well, now you’re talking.”
Sarge: You see, we don’t like to spend our money on video tapes and things like that. Every once in a while, we like to spend it on foolish little things – like food.
Broadway: Luxury items like that. So, is it true that all the street signs in New York (City) are color coordinated? My cousin told me that. In Queens, its white on blue, the Bronx, is blue on yellow, Manhattan’s black on yellow, Staten Island is black and blue –


[At this point, the discussion went on a long tangent on how the band found out about Lennon being shot while on their way to tape an “Uncle Floyd Show” and had to act zany. From there, it went to the imagined shooting of Queen Elizabeth and the shooting of the Pope, and two tourists from Buffalo, NY, where we pick it up.]


Broadway: It was on the tour plan: “Would you like the $1000 tour to Rome and you get to see all the monuments, etc., or would you like the $500 tour where you just see Rome from the bus, or would you like the $25 tour, where you get to see everything, but you have to get shot.”
Lee Harvey: “Well, let’s see – if I save up enough money in Buffalo doing piecework separating weenies from chickens –“


FFanzeen: Tours in the future?
Sarge: On August 24, we’re play the Garden –
Broadway: That’s planting the garden!

FFanzeen: Whatever happened to Blanche Blotto?
Broadway: What’s become of who?
Sarge: That’s old news. Why don’t you ask us what’s become of Chevy (Blotto)?

FFanzeen: Okay, what’s become of Chevy?
Sarge: Well, it’s all pretty strange. Two weeks ago, he dropped out to join the sink-hole worship cult down in Florida, and he’s living in a tent just outside that sink-hole.
Broadway: He’s a Chevrolet that wants to be at one with the Porches. Actually, his warranty ran out. We heard from [Ralph] Nader’s people and we had to recall him from the group.

FFanzeen: Who is replacing him?
Broadway: No one could replace Chevrolet Blotto.
Sarge: Now, we’re just the Blotto Quartet.
Broadway: Actually, Sarge is filling in on keyboard stuff, Lee Harvey is picking up the slack on the vocals, and business as usual.

FFanzeen: Why “Blotto”?
Broadway: Why notto? Well, if you play crossword puzzles – which I don’t – you find the words include “spiflicated” [not in my edition of Websters – Ed., 1981], six letters, beginning with “B,” fifth letter “T,” ending with “O” – with a “LOT” in the middle!