Eventually I came upon a little information about Dead Hippie, but the tribute page that I remember from several years ago has disappeared; the MySpace page that I did find has some videos and photos but not much else. Lead singer Simon Smallwood was the frontman for Dead Hippie. When they were profiled in Spin magazine about the time their album came out in 1983, a photo on the MySpace page shows the other bandmembers as Mike Hagen, Paul Mars (aka Paul Black), and Bob Mann. Jackie Fritz and Debra Exit also show up in photos with the band. A later photo from 1985 shows Simon Smallwood, Bob Mann, Robert Williams, and Mike Dewey. I guess that is the same man as Big Mike D, who also has a MySpace page where he mentions his Dead Hippie pedigree. Bob Friedman also has posts on the Internet saying that he had played with the band.
I didn’t really remember the Dead Hippie performance on New Wave Theatre that well (that’s what 30 years will do to you). What I do remember was that he is the only guest on the show that ever really got the better of host Peter Ivers, whose annoying interviews after rock performances (including the inevitable question, “What is the meaning of life?”) really got to most of the musicians, even for bands that were on their second or third visit to the show.
Well, after Dead Hippie’s performance, frontman Simon Smallwood responded to Ivers’ first question by saying, “I just want to say this, man” before launching into a prepared monologue for several minutes about what it would take to turn the country around (apropos of the news this week, one specific item was guaranteed health care for all). He then handed the microphone back, and all Ivers could do at that point was scream out: “Dead Hippie!”
Mostly though, it is Simon Smallwood’s singing that the various blogger types don’t like: “histrionics” come up a lot, “gallingly awful” is one description, and still another complained that he was trying to copy The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (remember “Fire”?) – like that’s a bad thing. I guess it is a personal preference; there are some who consider Sleater-Kinney lead singer Corin Tucker difficult to listen to (not to mention Bob Dylan), but I have never had that problem – far from it.
I think Simon Smallwood has a fascinating voice myself, and I am certainly not the only one. I saw the term “the late, great Simon Smallwood” several times; the caption for the above photograph is: “Simon as we like to remember him, terribly gut-wrenchingly funny.”
Dead Hippie didn’t make it, sadly, but Simon Smallwood later joined a band called Würm, which does have an article in Wikipedia. The band is described as “sludge metal” and was originally active from 1973 to 1977; Smallwood joined up for a short time in 1983. Bass player Chuck Dukowski was a founding member of Würm and would later join the seminal hardcore punk band Black Flag. There are also a couple of videos out there of Simon Smallwood performing with TuTu Band as recently as 1991.
* * *
Here is a nice shot of Dead Hippie frontman Simon Smallwood: