UNDER APPRECIATED ROCK BAND OF THE MONTH FOR MARCH 2016: THE LOVEMASTERS
It didn’t register right away, but eventually I noticed that Presidential candidate Donald Trump had the Twisted Sister song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” playing at a lot of his early rallies. Lead singer and songwriter Dee Snider personally gave Trump permission to use the song. I have written of their music video for this song before, featuring Animal House star Mark Metcalf and several lines of dialogue from the movie also. (Even the song has some of the dialogue in it).
There was a follow-up song from Twisted Sister that is not so well known. “I Wanna Rock” also had Mark Metcalf in the video and an Animal House theme; and another actor from the movie, Stephen Furst had a cameo. In this one, a boy is accosted by his teacher (played by Metcalf) for putting a Twisted Sister logo on his textbook. After a booming taunt, “What do you wanna do with your life???”, the boy says: “I Wanna Rock!”
Both songs come from the band’s third album, Stay Hungry; Twisted Sister has released 7 studio albums, 7 live albums, and 7 retrospective albums. The band has embarked on their farewell tour that is expected to end in mid-2016.
* * *
There is more fun to be had in the rock world also, as opposed to actual laughs. The B-52’s is one of the greatest fun bands ever, and they back it up with killer music as well. One of their early hits was “Rock Lobster” (1978); from Wikipedia: “Its lyrics include nonsensical lines about a beach party and excited rants about real or imagined marine animals – ‘There goes a dog-fish, chased by a cat-fish, in flew a sea robin, watch out for that piranha, there goes a narwhal, here comes a bikini whale!’ – accompanied by absurd, fictional noises attributed to them (provided by Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson — Pierson providing the higher-pitched noises and Wilson the lower-pitched ones); the chorus consists of the words ’Rock Lobster!’ repeated over and over on top of a keyboard line.”
The follow-up single by the B-52’s was “Private Idaho”; both were dance club hits though neither made a major impact on the Billboard Hot 100. The latter song inspired the title of the River Phoenix/Keanu Reeves indie film, My Own Private Idaho that was directed by Gus Van Sant.
* * *
John Lennon was beginning to write some new songs and noticed that much of the new music sounded a lot like Yoko Ono’s earlier work, particularly “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s. This realization fired his inspiration to get a new album out. The couple produced dozens of songs, enough to fill up their hit 1980 album, Double Fantasy, as well as a second planned album, Milk and Honey that was ultimately released in 1984 (following Lennon’s assassination).
* * *
One of the best music videos by the B-52’s was the one for “Love Shack”, featuring a road trip down the Atlanta Highway (that would be the old Atlanta Highway, a two-lane road from the looks of it) to a stylized dance club in the middle of nowhere. The video had just the right mix of kitsch and nostalgia.
Another great B-52’s video is for “Roam”; like many of their songs, there is a lot of sexual innuendo in this one, particularly the line: “Around the world / The trip begins with a kiss.” One image has stuck with me over the years; toward the end, there is a shot of a Toyota truck but with the lettering on the back spelled ATOYOT (meaning that the film is reversed).
* * *
ZZ Top also had a lot of fun with videos in the 1980’s. Their name was created so that they would be the last band name in an alphabetical list. Bandleader Billy Gibbons (guitar, vocals) and Dusty Hill (bass, vocals) grew very long, more or less matching beards; their drummer’s name is Frank Beard, leading longtime Village Voice rockcrit Robert Christgau to describe ZZ Top once as “two beards and a Beard”.
Beginning with “Gimme All Your Lovin’” in August 1983 as the first single from their album Eliminator (though it was not initially a hit), ZZ Top released a series of rock videos featuring a customized 1933 Ford coupe, a ZZ keychain, a trio of ZZ girls, and some smooth fades, often after giving signature arm gestures. Other videos coming just from the Eliminator album – which was Diamond-certified (i.e., 10 million albums sold) – include “Legs”, “Got Me Under Pressure” and “Sharp Dressed Man”.
* * *
One of the great things about the heyday of MTV is that you never knew what great sounds would hit you next. I think I was on a business trip somewhere when I first saw the masterful rock video for the Deee-Lite song “Groove is in the Heart”, and I was simply flabbergasted at what I was seeing. Swirling colors, wild costumes, Yellow-Brick-Road–style marching, shots of legendary guest musician Bootsy Collins of Parliament-Funkadelic, tiny corner photos of the bandmembers – they really didn’t miss a trick in what they were doing. I didn’t even really know what kind of music this was, but at least in retrospect, it reminded me of the golden age of psychedelic soul in the late 1960’s. Their debut album, World Clique was equally infectious throughout.
“Groove is in the Heart” was a truly mountainous hit; as Wikipedia tells it: “Slant magazine ranked the song second in its 100 Greatest Dance Songs list, adding: ‘No song delivered the group’s world-conscious Word as colorfully and open-heartedly as “Groove is in the Heart”, which flew up the Billboard charts while goosing stuffed shirts.’ NME and The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop annual critics’ poll named ‘Groove is in the Heart’ the best single released in the year 1990.
“An immediate smash in nightclubs, the song went to number one on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart and also hit number four on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at number 1 for one week in Australia in November 1990.”
* * *
Their follow-up single, “Power of Love” was a modest hit in the Billboard singles chart; but this song also hit #1 on the dance club charts. Deee-Lite had three other #1 dance club hits through 1995 and two others that made the Top Ten. The band released a total of three albums and a dozen singles.
Surprisingly, the impact of Deee-Lite on the music world was mainly limited to “Groove is in the Heart”. Everyone expected the band’s lead vocalist Lady Miss Kier to become a music and fashion icon (she certainly has the name for it), but as I remember it, even on MTV, she kept a fairly low profile.
* * *
Katrina and the Waves came along in the 1980’s when a lot of the alternative rock music was getting pretty serious, and were they a breath of fresh air. Kimberley Rew (guitar, chief songwriter) put together a band in the mid-1970’s called the Waves (along with a cover band called Mama’s Cookin’); but it was their second incarnation as Katrina and the Waves that hit the big time, after his other band, the Soft Boys came and went. Other bandmembers were Katrina Leskanich (guitar, lead vocals), Vince de la Cruz (bass), and Alex Cooper (drums). Actually Kimberley Rew was also a sometime lead singer, but that didn’t last long. Their major hit was “Walking on Sunshine” (1985), but they previously wrote and recorded a song that was a hit by the Bangles, “Going Down to Liverpool”.
* * *
I have previously told the ironic tale of finding the 12-inch single of the follow-up hit by Katrina and the Waves to “Walking on Sunshine”, called “Do You Want Crying” as practically the first record that I picked up in the yard from the wreckage of our home from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. “Katrina” would have been enough by itself, but with the band name being the Waves . . .
From Wikipedia: “When Hurricane Katrina and its storm surge devastated much of the U.S. Gulf Coast in [August-]September 2005, the MSNBC news program, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, dubbed its coverage of the hurricane, ‘Katrina and the Waves’; the name also appeared in numerous headlines and blog postings. A New York Times reporter contacted Katrina Leskanich, who said: ‘The first time I opened the paper and saw “Katrina kills 9,” it was a bit of a shock. . . . I hope that the true spirit of “Walking on Sunshine” will prevail. I would hate for the title to be tinged with sadness, and I will have to do my own part to help turn that around.’” She had the same or similar sentiments posted on her website for several months. Anyway, I still hear “Walking on Sunshine” on the radio frequently, and it has the same joyful spirit to me.
* * *
Past Eurovision Song Winners
I initially had Katrina and the Waves confused with a rock band that I remember from some years earlier that did pretty good music (live, not just recorded background music) in a recruitment video I believe for the U. S. Air Force. I have no idea who they were (and can find nothing on the Internet about them); but their female lead singer looked a little like Katrina Leskanich, and the Waves were the female section of the U. S. Naval Reserves, so that sure made sense to me. Since they are a British band, I doubt very much if they were the ones; though in actuality, Katrina and her then-boyfriend Vince de la Cruz are from America, so who knows.
There are not many commercials that feature truly rousing music, so in that respect, those ads were reminiscent of the famous 1970’s commercial for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (IGLWU) with the song that was the result of a contest sponsored by the union, “Look for the Union Label” that featured a performance by actual union workers.
* * *
The Katrina and the Waves album discography is a bit tangled to say the least. Their first two albums, Katrina and the Waves and Katrina and the Waves Vol. 2 came out on small labels in 1983 and 1984, respectively. The latter is also known as Katrina and the Waves 2, but the cover shot doesn’t have a “2” in sight (the first album only has lettering on the cover). Wikipedia has the debut album listed as Walking on Sunshine and says that it was released only in Canada, though that seems doubtful.
The album that I have, also called Katrina and the Waves, sure looks like a debut album to me and features “Walking on Sunshine”; Waves appears to have followed as their second album, and both came out in 1985. Actually Allmusic has Waves as being third in the list, and then comes Katrina and the Waves as their major-label debut album. In any case, what the band did for the second Katrina and the Waves album was re-record tracks from their first two albums, and the result was given a 4½ star rating by Allmusic, higher than any of their other albums.
The band continued to have success in Europe, releasing another four albums; their career was given a major boost in 1997 when they won the Eurovision Song Contest with their entry, “Love Shine a Light” that made it to #2 on the British charts. Rock bands rarely even enter this contest, never mind win it; it is primarily a competition among European pop outfits. Katrina and the Waves have remained active into the 2010’s.
* * *
Arlo Guthrie is currently on tour promoting the 50th anniversary of his best-known song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”; he recently had his first concert in Biloxi. At around 18 minutes in length, this might be the longest best-known song of any rock musician in history. At its core, it is an anti-war, anti-draft song; but for the most part, it is fun all the way, with inventive storytelling and sparkling wordplay. It seems that Arlo Guthrie was arrested once for littering and was later found to be unfit for military service because of his “criminal background”.
The story takes place in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, about as lovely a town as you will ever see. Their downtown district has been preserved in perpetuity since it was the subject of a major painting by the world famous yet still under-rated artist who grew up there, Norman Rockwell.
* * *
Arlo Guthrie starred as himself in a movie called Alice’s Restaurant (1969) that brought the song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” to life better than anyone could have expected. It was directed by Arthur Penn whose other films include Bonnie and Clyde and Little Big Man. Other cast members include Pat Quinn, James Broderick, and M. Emmet Walsh. Stockbridge police chief William Obanhein (“Officer Obie”) appears as himself, as does the blind judge, James Hannon. Pete Seeger and his bandmate in the Weavers, Lee Hays are also in the film. Alice Brock has a cameo in the movie; as the song says, the name of her restaurant was never “Alice’s Restaurant” – originally it was called The Back Room.
* * *
Arlo Guthrie’s father Woody Guthrie has been in the news lately; among other notes along the same lines, a reworking of one of his best known songs, “I Ain’t Got No Home” came to light in his papers that included a scathing indictment as a racist of “old man Trump”, that is, Fred Trump, the father of Donald Trump. Guthrie had signed a lease in December 1950 at one of the elder Trump’s apartment complexes near Coney Island, called Beach Haven and began noticing the lily-white neighborhood where it was located.
Arlo Guthrie was quoted about this in our local newspaper, the Sun Herald: “Maybe the biggest difference between my father and I is that I was able to live a little longer than he did and was able to learn from my experience in ways he could not. He was hospitalized when he was only 40 years old and passed away at 55 in 1967. . . . [A]s I aged I became less judgmental of individuals and began instead writing about the things I liked or didn’t like, and stopped writing about the people themselves. My father didn’t have the luxury of living long enough to make that kind of change regardless of whether he would or would not have.”
When The Beatles Anthology documentary came out in 1995, I remember the filmmakers discussing how, in contrast to the mellow conversations from the three living bandmembers, they had to carefully select quotations from John Lennon who was often bitter and sarcastic about the Beatles. Lennon was assassinated at the age of 40, and the break-up of the Beatles was barely a decade in the past at that point.
* * *
This month’s Under Appreciated Rock Band is THE LOVEMASTERS, also known as Bootsey X and the Lovemasters, that arose from the reliably high-octane world of Detroit punk rock; but the band’s music has soul and funk touches that rarely show up in hard rock of any kind. The music is loose and sometimes borders on the chaotic, though always with a defined groove; and Bootsey X has a powerful and ragged voice that fits it perfectly.
This is the second post in a row to feature a UARB where I only have an EP, but sometimes that is enough for a band to become a favorite of mine. As far as I know, Amanda Jones only ever released Amanda Jones; but I have another Lovemasters track on a compilation album, and they released two full albums (including a Bootsey X solo album) plus an early cassette that I don’t have.
* * *
Motown is of course the best known music from the Motor City, but Detroit has always had a hard-edged rock scene as well. Proto-punk gods Iggy and the Stooges and MC5 (“Motor City 5”) are both Detroit bands that were founded in the 1960’s. Perhaps the hardest rocking 1960’s American band that made it big is Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.
From Wikipedia: “Other notable [Detroit] bands from this time period include Alice Cooper, the Amboy Dukes (featuring Ted Nugent), the Bob Seger System, Frijid Pink, SRC, the Up, the Frost (featuring Dick Wagner), Popcorn Blizzard (featuring Meat Loaf), Cactus, and the soulful sounds of Rare Earth and the Flaming Ember.”
Rock and roll pioneer Bill Haley was from Detroit; in 1955, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets was the first big rock and roll hit. Hank Ballard and the Midnighters had a crossover R&B hit in 1954 with “Work with Me, Annie”; this band also recorded the original version of “The Twist” in 1959 as a B-side that Chubby Checker catapulted to a nationwide craze the following year. More recently, the White Stripes is one of the primary bands that ignited the Garage Rock Revival of the early 2000’s, among a host of other like-minded Detroit groups.
* * *
Detroit and the surrounding suburbs also had several important punk rock bands and included one of the first hardcore punk scenes in the nation. One of these short-lived but talented punk bands was the Ramrods that was formed in 1977. Bandmembers were Mark Norton (vocals), Peter James (guitar), Dave Hanna (bass), and Robert Mulrooney (drums). According to Wikipedia, the last official Ramrods show was on January 28, 1978. Before the band broke up, Ramones manager Danny Fields and Seymour Stein of Sire Records had been interested in signing them.
Robert Mulrooney and Dave Hanna were first in a band called Streets that later evolved into the Deviates; Mulrooney says of that period: “We were a bar band playing covers, four nights a week, but we’d throw in stuff like Television’s ‘Venus De Milo’, and as long as [the audience] didn’t know it was ‘punk’, they’d dig it.”
* * *
Surprisingly little is available on the Internet about the Ramrods (and also the Lovemasters for that matter); I cannot find so much as a 45 that was released during the band’s brief history. The best information that I have found is in a November 2014 post by John Perye on a website called berlinlovesyou.com; it includes a quote from drummer Robert Mulrooney: “The Ramrods were the first band in Detroit to play in the style of the Ramones.” Perye also writes: “I have heard countless stories from many Detroiter’s who argued that during the 1980’s there was no better soul-funk-party-new-wave band than the Lovemasters.”
* * *
A retrospective album by the Ramrods called Gimme Some Action finally came out in 2004 on both LP and CD, but it is already so rare that popsike.com reported an auction in 2012 with a final bid of $32. Including the live medley mentioned below, the album has just 9 tracks.
Writing for the Detroit Metro Times website, Ben Blackwell writes of the Gimme Some Action CD: “The Ramrods are the name of Detroit frontline punk warriors. . . . Ramrods lead howler Mark J. Norton barks like a bored kid with an armload of bulldogs while guitarist Peter James’s scarred-yet-smooth soloing informs us that [the Stooges album] Raw Power was safely tucked under his pillow. While the ’Rods studio output is brief, the highlight of the disc is easily their 1977 live medley: ‘Helter Skelter’ [by the Beatles] catapults into a punk-painted ‘My Generation’ [by the Who] and declares the obvious in ‘Search and Destroy’ [by the Stooges] and cements its place in rock lore by adding the archetypical ‘I’m a Ramrod’.”
* * *
As reported in Wikipedia, following the break-up of the Ramrods, Peter James was an early member of the power pop band the Romantics, and Mark Norton and Dave Hanna formed a band called the 27.
Robert Mulrooney moved on to play drums for Nikki Corvette’s original band, Nikki and the Corvettes (I have a reissue copy of their wonderful sole album from 1980, Nikki and the Corvettes), plus Coldcock, the Sillies, the Mutants, Rocket 455, and Dark Carnival.
* * *
When he decided to try his hand at being a frontman, and using the moniker Bootsey X, Robert Mulrooney formed the Lovemasters in the mid-1980’s. There have been several line-ups of the band over the years, and Mulrooney believes that one of the later line-ups (around 2010) was among the best: Eddie Baranek of the Sights (guitar), drummer Skip Denomme (drums), and Ricky Rat of the Trash Brats (rhythm guitar).
Robert Mulrooney recalls: “My first thought was, ‘What happened to all the fun rock ’n’ roll bands, like the Flamin’ Groovies or even Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers?’ I used to make up silly nicknames for myself all the time. One was ‘Surfer Bootsey’ as a joke because you’d never see any funky brothers surfin’ . . . and the name just caught on. We were Bootsey and the Banshies at first — we misspelled it that way just to piss off all the serious Goth fans around Detroit at that time. And then one night, I drove by a strip club and saw on the marquee: ‘Featuring Reggie the Love Master!’ I just thought that sounded cool.”
The Lovemasters opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers during the tour to support their second album, Freaky Styley (1985) when they appeared at St. Andrews Hall, an important Detroit music venue since its beginnings in 1980.
* * *
Writing in 2010 for the Detroit Metro Times, Bill Holdship writes that “the Ramrods [were] Detroit’s first ‘official punk’ band” and also gives a great overview of what the Lovemasters were all about: “Bootsey X & the Lovemasters were the best live rock ’n’ roll show in town then — sometimes approaching rock ’n’ roll carnivaldom. . . . [I]n the mid-to-late ’80s, a Bootsey X & the Lovemasters performance was akin to seeing Iggy Stooge fronting a James Brown and His Famous Flames Revue — that is, if both the Godfathers of Soul and Punk had even greater senses of humor . . . plus, everything else such a concept would involve (with flashes of George Clinton’s Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone, both of which were psychedelicized versions of the [James] Brown revue anyway). The act came complete with horns, keyboards, a jive-talking emcee (who doubled on sax), and the ever-present — and ever-hot — Sugarbabes of Soul. . . .
“And if that weren’t enough, the crew mixed it all with such perfect punk-ified covers as Neil Diamond’s ‘Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show’, Elvis’ ‘Kissin’ Cousins’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’, Roy Head’s ‘Treat Her Right’ (the instrumental that always announced Bootsey’s imminent arrival onstage), and perhaps the greatest cover of the O’Jays’ ‘Love Train’ of all time.”
* * *
I first heard the classic track “I’m a Ramrod” by the Ramrods on the 1998 Total Energy Records compilation LP and CD, Motor City’s Burnin’, with the title adapted from the MC5 song “Motor City Is Burning”; I got it in a special package of 3 Detroit CD’s that also included Motor City’s Burnin’, Vol. 2 and Motor City Blues. The first two albums are stoked with killer tracks from many of the bands mentioned above and others. Among other things, Motor City Blues was my introduction to a simply amazing street musician named One String Sam who plays a handmade “unitar” and has a bluesman howl unlike any that I have ever heard.
Preceding “I’m a Ramrod” on both the LP and the CD is a terrific track by Bootsey X and the Lovemasters called “Pusherman of Love”. Credits given on the Discogs website give Bootsey X as the lead vocalist and also the record producer; Robert Mulrooney is listed as the drummer and also the songwriter – as noted, Bootsey and Mulrooney are the same person. Other players are Mark Kern (bass), Craig Peters (guitar), Gary Adams (guitar), Don Jones (saxophone), and “militant rap” by Valorie Dawn Moore.
* * *
The 6-track EP CD that I have by the Lovemasters is called Hot Pants Zone and came out on Total Energy Records in 1995. As with “Pusherman of Love” (which is not on the EP), the Lovemasters manage to perform several songs with sexually charged music that is playful and tongue-in-cheek, without being smarmy or misogynist or sleazy or embarrassing – that is not unheard of, but it is a hard pose to pull off. The opening cut, “(Annie Got) Hot Pants Power” and their famous song “Genius from the Waist Down” fall squarely into that category.
The Lovemasters also have a cover version of “I’m a Ramrod” that is every bit as tough as “I’m a Ramrod” by the Ramrods. In their version, there was at least one key lyric change; in place of a tacky sexual reference – surely the double double entendre of “ramrod” is enough after all (in both the song name and the band name) – they substitute a clause that even a lot of my Christian friends should be able to get behind: “. . . ’cause everybody knows that the world’s a cheat / Yeah the world’s a cheat”.
These three songs plus “Beat Girl” list Bobby Beyond as lead vocalist (that’s Robert Mulrooney in yet another guise) plus Gerald Shohan (guitars, backing vocals), Ricky Rat (rhythm guitar), Mike Marshall and Steve King (bass on two songs apiece), Jimmy Paluzzi (drums), and Sophie & Irene (backing vocals on “(Annie Got) Hot Pants Power” – mostly minimalist moans, ooh’s and aah’s).
For “Pony Down”, perhaps the slowest song on the EP (but just barely), the Lovemasters has a different line-up of musicians that is more like those who played on “Pusherman of Love”: Bootsey X (lead vocals, backing vocals, drums), Mark Kern (bass), Craig Peters (guitar), Gary Adams (guitar), Don Jones (guitar), and Mike Murphy (backing vocals).
The black guy in the cover shot leaning on the classic Detroit car (complete with fins) next to the gorgeous model flipping the bird turns out to be a drug dealer who happened to be watching the photo shoot in a rough part of town.
* * *
The final and probably best song on the album Hot Pants Zone, having the curious title of “(Santa’s Got a) Bomb for Whitey” is actually by Dark Carnival and is taken from their album Greatest Show in Detroit (1991). Bootsey X dominates the proceedings, and it sure sounds like the Lovemasters to me.
Dark Carnival was sort of a Detroit punk supergroup that was assembled by Detroit music promoter Colonel Galaxy, whose name was a nod to Elvis Presley’s longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Bootsey X was the first bandmember to be recruited; others included his bandmate in the Ramrods, Mark Norton, plus (as listed in Wikipedia): “Gary Adams from the Cubes [who was also a sometime bandmember in the Lovemasters], Mike McFeaters from What Jane Shared, Jerry Vile from the Boners, Sarana VerLin from Natasha, Greasy Carlisi from Motor City Bad Boys, Robert Gordon and Art Lyzak from the Mutants, Joe Hayden from Bugs Bedow, Pete Bankert from Weapons, [and] Larry Steel from the Cult Heroes.
“Later, Dark Carnival saw some turnover, with the ‘big’ names signing on: Niagara from Destroy All Monsters, Ron [Asheton] and Scott Asheton from the Stooges, Cheetah Chrome from the Dead Boys, Jim Carroll even came in from New York.”
Credits for “(Santa’s Got a) Bomb for Whitey” by the Lovemasters / Dark Carnival are Bootsey X (lead vocals), Ron Asheton (lead guitar and backing vocals), Gary Adams (guitar), Joe Hayden (bass), and Ron Cumbo (drums). I have no idea what the song is about, but the infectious repetition of “got a bomb for whitey” that recurs throughout the song typically runs through my head for weeks every time I play this CD.
* * *
At the beginning of “(Santa’s Got a) Bomb for Whitey” by the Lovemasters is a bit of wacky but intriguing dialogue. I found precisely one reference to it on the Internet, a blog post by A. Templeton Goff answering a question about a different skit. He says: “[It is by] the Credibility Gap, the first group that featured Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and David Lander (McKean’s partner from Laverne & Shirley). It’s from their album A Great Gift Idea. . . . Pretty hard to come by these days (it’s never been released on tape or CD), but it’s well worth the effort to find. IMHO, it ranks with National Lampoon’s Radio Dinner, Firesign Theatre’s Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers, and Stan Freberg’s United States of America as one of the all-time great comedy albums.”
As laid out by A. Templeton Goff, the dialogue is taken from a sketch by the Credibility Gap called “Kingpin”, the story of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. if told in a “blaxploitation” film. (Only the first two lines plus the fistfight are actually on the Lovemasters album):
BUS DRIVER: Sorry, fella, you’ll have to get to the back of this bus.
KINGPIN: Listen, you honky-donkey! No one tells Kingpin to get back!
(Sounds of a fistfight)
BUS DRIVER: I . . . I thought you were nonviolent, Kingpin!
KINGPIN: Sure, man. Only when I’m . . . dreamin’!
* * *
The Lovemasters’ sole full-length CD came out in 1997 and is called Pusherman of Love. Besides the title track, “Pusherman of Love”, the album includes two versions of “Genius from the Waist Down”; one is live, and the other is an “electrifying radio mix”.
Early on (around 1989), Bootsey X and the Lovemasters also released a cassette called Strip Music for the Suburbs; its six selections include “Pusherman of Love”.
* * *
Robert Mulrooney, a/k/a Bootsey X fell onto hard times when his apartment burned down, and he also developed a lot of health issues. In about 2007, he was offered the chance to tour with soul legend Nathaniel Mayer. Outrageous Cherry guitarist Matthew Smith, who was also along on the tour, recalls of their performance in Berlin in November 2007: “Bootsey X was happy to be in Berlin. We played a great gig with Nate [Nathaniel Mayer] at Bassy, a really nice club, nice vibe. . . . I do remember walking through the streets of Berlin with Bootsey, and noticing that he looked like an integral part of the whole scene. I remember thinking that Bootsey X makes sense on the streets of Berlin. He was a great friend, and a fantastic musician. Nate loved his drumming, and so did all of us.”
I have a CD by Nathaniel Mayer called Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black? that was released in 2009 on Alive Naturalsound Records. The cover shot was taken at the same time (and also with the Eiffel Tower in the background) as the above photograph showing Nathaniel Mayer with Bootsey X (middle).
* * *
Bootsey X was determined to release his final album despite his failing health, and Women’s Love Rites came out on vinyl in June 2013; he was wheelchair bound by then. Musicians performing on the CD include many who had been in the Lovemasters: Mike Marshall, Gerald Shohan, Ricky Rat, Don Jones, and Steve King, plus Dave Hanna of the Ramrods and Matthew Smith, who had played with him in Europe during the tour with Nathaniel Mayer.
* * *
Bootsey X died on Thanksgiving Day 2013. The John Perye post, which was written for the first anniversary of his death, concludes: “So on this day, let us remember the great times and music Bootsey X a.k.a. Bobby Beyond a.k.a. ‘Genius from the Waist Down’ a.k.a. ‘Pusherman of Love’ or for short just Bob, has left us with. He may not have sold a million records, but the mark he made on the Detroit music scene outweighs any statistics imaginable. Thanks for all the wisdom, Bootsey, you are sorely missed.”
* * *
STORY OF THE MONTH: Pat Boone (from June 2013)
There are others who helped pave the way for rock and roll as we know it that will have to wait for another time, such as Fats Domino, Pat Boone, the Everly Brothers . . .
Hold on: Pat Boone??? Ladies and Gentlemen, this little series of posts is all about Under-Appreciation; and if there is any 1950’s rock star – maybe any 1950’s musician, period – who is more under-rated today as a performer than Pat Boone (one of the original teen idols), I don’t know who it might be. The “crime” that Boone is accused of – recording white versions of black R&B songs – is what almost every white rock and roll artist in the 1950’s was doing; heading that list is Elvis Presley. And yet Pat Boone is the only one who gets much guff about it. Pat Boone’s extremely clean-cut image works against his legacy in this regard, especially in retrospect.
Pat Boone hit the top of the charts with his second single, “Ain’t That a Shame”, which came out in July 1955 – yeah, a little earlier than you expected I’ll bet. For context, that was just two months after Chuck Berry’s first single, “Maybellene” was released; and Elvis Presley wouldn’t hit #1 until early 1956.
Also, Pat Boone was not in competition with the original release of “Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino (which also came out in July 1955 and was originally called “Ain’t it a Shame”); quite the contrary: White teenagers often bought the original single – actually, both 78’s and 45’s were being released in this period – after they heard Pat Boone’s version. This was a little before my time, but I knew several people from that era who liked both Boone’s recordings and the originals. Pat Boone was a major force in introducing white audiences to R&B music, because the original recordings were not being played on white radio stations more than any other reason.
Fats Domino and Pat Boone were friendly with each other; and he praised Boone’s version of this song. Fats Domino once brought Pat Boone on stage with him at a concert and pointed to a large gold ring, saying: “Pat Boone bought me this ring” (with the royalties from sales of his record that soared when Boone’s 45 became so popular).
No one can deny that Pat Boone had an ear for finding great songs to record, and he knew how to craft a single that people wanted to buy – otherwise, Boone wouldn’t have put together an impressive 38 Top 40 singles between 1955 and 1963. There is a list you could work on if you want: other rock artists who managed to achieve that feat.
As far as I am concerned, Pat Boone had a real feel for rhythm and blues, and his recordings have held up over the decades since they were made. But don’t take my word for it; YouTube has dozens of them available for listening.