Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Monkees And Other Pre-Fab Groups

Last month a couple of figures associated with the Monkees died. Paul Mazurski who would later become a highly respected film-maker got his start as a director and co-creator for the Monkees TV show. Songwriter Gerry Goffin, who co-wrote with Carole King such hits as "The Locomation" for Little Eva and "Don't Bring Me Down" for the Animals, also wrote songs for the Monkees including "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Star Collector" and "Porpoise Song". Singer Davy Jones died last year.


These deaths bring into focus what great music they made (the TV show is good fun too) for those who may have forgotten. Or who never wanted to admit how much they secretly liked them. In the counter-culture 1960's The Monkees were as uncool as any boyband today. Even less actually since in today's post-irony culture you can defend liking damn near anything.

Except Nickleback of course. Personally I'm not sure exactly why Nickleback are so roundly despised. I've always found them to be merely annoying but they really seem to have found whatever the opposite of charisma might be. But I digress.


The knock against the Monkees was of course that they were the Pre-Fab Four. A group put together specifically by Don Kirshner for a TV show designed to rip-off the success of the Beatles movies. That is of course true. Kirshner carefully auditioned the potential band members based not on musical abilities but on their looks, charm and personality in front of the camera. Worse they also hired songwriters, producers and musicians to do the actual music. All the pre-fab four had to do was show up and sing what was put in front of them and lip-synch for the camera. They were not real musicians. They did not pay their dues.


The first part is true, they did have extensive auditions. Among those who were turned down were Stephen Stills (too short, stocky and dour) and reportedly Charles Manson (too...well you can guess). However it was not true that none of those who made the final cut were not "real musicians". Mike Nesmith had been getting a local reputation as a singer/songwriter working in a country/rock vein similar to that of the equally struggling Gram Parsons. Peter Tork had been scuffling through the folk-rock scene and could play virtually any stringed or keyed instrument. The other two members had more showbiz resumes but did have some musical backgrounds as well. Mickey Dolenz had been a child actor in a TV show called "Circus Boy" but he had also sang in a folk duo with his sister and played drums in an obscure and unrecorded garage band. Davy Jones was a fairly well known child star from England where he had appeared as the Artful Dodger in the musical of Oliver Twist and had also had a couple of pop records that reached the mid level of the charts. He even had his own fanclub.


It's also not entirely true that they did not play on their records. It is a fact that their first two albums were largely played by session men. However Nesmith in particular was insistent that he be allowed to contribute some songs and have some input into the recordings. The other Monkees backed him and after the first season they were so popular that they could force a showdown with Kirshner. The studio was at first dismissive and threatened to fire Nesmith who threatened to quit. Then the other Monkees threatened to quit as well and the studio backed down and instead Kirshner was out. From that point on the musical decisions were theirs. For their third full album the boys became a full band, playing on every track. Having proven their point, for the subsequent albums they made full use of the resources and budgets their success granted them in hiring the best session musicians, producers and composers. They still maintained control however and various tracks might be written by a Monkee or pitched by various songwriters and have any combination of Monkee and session guys playing on it. They are still clearly Monkees records though rather than marketing jingles.


In the beginning the Monkees were basically a vocal group with a producer in charge, this would make them in the same position as one of Phil Spector's groups, or some of the Motown groups, and nobody quibbles with the value of those records. By the third album they were clearly in charge. Songs like "Mary Mary", "For Pete's Sake", "All The King's Men", and "Sweet Young Thing" were written by band members. And it would be band members themselves who made some truly groundbreaking creative decisions such as one of the earliest uses of a Moog on a rock record with "Star Collector" and "Daily Nightly" (that was Mickey's idea) or Peter's use of a harpsichord on "All Of Your Toys" and "The Girl That I Knew Somewhere". Mike Nesmith's country rock fusion is contemporary with or in some cases pre-dates the more celebrated Gram Parsons, Byrds and Buffalo Springfield breakthroughs. He also wrote "Different Drum" for Linda Ronstadt's original band The Stone Ponys. His song "Mary Mary would be covered by The Paul Butterfield Blues band. The band just never got the credit for what they actually achieved.


For those who still complain that they merely sang while others pulled the strings I would further point out that

a) That's not entirely true, definitely not after the first season

b) the same could be said of Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline, neither of whom wrote any songs, produced their own records or could really play an instrument very well. They were singers period. And yet nobody would listen to one of their records and say; "Big deal, they didn't write that". Ditto for the Supremes, Gladys Knight, Righteous Bros, Wanda Jackson, and George Jones not to mention most jazz singers.

c) Take a look at the list of people the Monkees had access to. You would have to be an idiot not to make use of them. They included;

Guitarists James Burton, Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Doug Dillard, Danny Kortchmar, Clarence White and even Neil Young. Drummers Hal Blaine and Buddy Miles and saxman Plas Johnson.

Lieber & Stoller, Carole King & Jerry Goffin, Boyce & Hart, Neil Diamond, Niel Sedaka, Carol Bayer, Paul Williams and Andy Kim

Producers and Arrangers;
Jeff Barry, Jack Nitzsche and Shorty Rogers


If you are still going to be a hard-ass about the "purity" of a "real band" who come up together "in the clubs" or went to school together consider some of these other bands who were "created" by a manager or producer and try and pretend you don't like, or even love some of their work;

1. The Piltdown Men;
The Four Preps were an ultra-white pop vocal group of the mid-fifties who found themselves swept aside by rock & roll. While other similar groups like the Four Freshmen, Four Lads The Crewcuts or The Lettermen broke up or ended up on the oldies circuit, head Prep Ed Cobb decided to embrace the Rock. Enlisting prep pianist Lincoln Mayorga they surprisingly decided to completely abandon their smooth pop sounds and even drop the vocals completely in favour of pounding drums and blaring saxophones for a 1960 Bo Diddlyish Frat-Rock instrumental they called "Brontosaurus Stomp". They boosted the lumbering image by calling the group of studio players The Pitdown Men after the infamous caveman hoax of the 1900's. Besides Mayorga on piano and Cobb on guitar the original band included two sax players, Scott Gordon and Jackie Kelso, bassist Tommy Tedesco and drummer Alan Brenmanen. After the surprise hit of "Brontosaurus Stomp" Cobb assembled other studio musicians for various caveman themed followups such as "Old MacDonald's Cave" and "Goodnight Mrs Flintstone" until the novelty wore off. Then Cobb tried to latch on to the surf craze with "Night Surfin" in 1962 before the Piltdown Men returned to the primordial pit from whence they came. Ed Cobb would later resurface as a songwriter and producer of bands like The Standells (for whom he wrote "Dirty Water"), Chocolate Watchband (see below) and Gloria Jones for whom he wrote "Tainted Love".


2. The Dave Clark Five;
Dave Clark was an ambitious aspiring actor, session drummer and record producer with little to his credit in the early sixties. However he was smart and observant so when he saw the success of the Liverpool scene of the Beatles he quickly assembled a group of solid musicians including soulful singer Mike Smith with himself on drums, naming the band after himself, just to make it clear who was in charge. Clark acted as manger and producer and ran the band like a business taking a hefty percentage for himself and paying generous salaries to the band. They churned out several hit singles and even more albums which often seemed to simply reissue their hit singles in various combinations and similar looking covers with perfunctory cover songs and instrumentals. They were despised by British critics as mercenaries who cashed in on Mersey Beat but became huge in north America until the late sixties when tastes changed to more complex and socially conscious. At that point The DC5 hit the road for extended tours of Asia, Australia and Latin America until Clark decided times had changed and he quietly pulled the plug. Clark took his fortune and invested wisely in real estate and going into film and television production, walking away from music completely except for a dreadful rock opera he produced on Broadway. He would steadfastly refuse any reunion talks, being really too rich to care.


3. The Tornados;
Britain's second greatest guitar instrumental group (after The Shadows) were assembled by legendary producer Joe Meek originally as a vehicle for bassist Heinz Burt, a platinum blonde blue-eyed pretty boy that Meek had a crush on. It happened that Meek had also been working on a strange song which would utilize the innovative "spacey" effects he had developed for a unique sci-fi sound. The resulting record was called "Telstar" which became a huge international hit. After a few followups Meek split Heinz off to a solo career as a singer while the rest of the band became Billy Fury's backup band. Meek would reassemble a different lineup for various attempts at followup singles until 1967. One of these latter-day Tornados would become drummer for Cliff Richard. Heinz never clicked as a solo singer in spite of his teen idol looks and plenty of press and Beatlemania sent both him, Billy Fury and the new version of the Tornados to the oldies circuit. Joe Meek killed himself in 1967.


4. The Marketts & The Routers;
The band that did the classic "Out Of Limits" (also done by The Ventures) and "Batman" (originally done by Neal Hefti) was not an actual band at all. Producer Joe Saraceneo assembled various studio musicians to record a surf song he had written called "Surfer's Stomp" in 1961 and dubbed them The Mar-Ketts. The single was successful enough to record followups for a few years recording several singles, which featured different lineups some of which included drummer Hal Blaine and Leon Russell on keyboards. For some reason Saraceneo actually had yet another instrumental group at the same time using most of the same musicians called The Routers. Under this name they recorded another instrumental hit with "Let's Go". Neither of these bands would play live. To further confuse things Saraceneo would later go on to produce the Ventures who would cover most if not all of his earlier hits.


5. The Byrds ~ The Byrds were of course a real band as everyone knows. However for some reason record producer Terry Melcher had so little confidence in them that they reused to let the band actually play on their first single "Mr Tambourine Man" (and it's B Side) instead bringing in a session group consisting of some of the same musicians from the Marketts and Routers including Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (bass), Jerry Cole (guitar), and Leon Russell (electric piano). Roger McQuinn was the only Byrd to actually play on the single since his trademark twelve string guitar was integral to the Byrd's sound. It's also possible that David Crosby may have strummed a rhythm guitar. The Byrds did however provide all the vocals. All this in spite of the fact that most of the Byrds members (except drummer Micheal Clarke) were veterans of the folk scene, with bassist Chris Hillman having recorded a bluegrass album with his group The Hillmen. By the time of the second single however the real Bryds were doing all the playing from that point on.


6. The Strangeloves;
If Ed Cobb had taken on a cartoonish identity and concept for a fake band then The Strangeloves took it to the next logical step and fleshed it out with a whole elaborate backstory. They were the creation of a New York based songwriting and production team of Richard Gotteher, Jerry Goldstein and Rob Feldman (AKA FGG Productions), who had previously worked with the Girl Group The Angels on their 1963 hit "My Boyfriend's Back". With Girl Groups going out of fashion in the wake of Beatlemania they decided to dispense with managing a group and simply made one up. The Strangeloves were supposedly from far off Australia and were naturally three brothers named Giles, Miles and Niles Strange who were raised on a remote sheep farm where the had developed a new species of sheep while forming a band in their spare time and recording crude garage singles like "I Want Candy", "Night Time", and "Cara-Lyn". The public mostly yawned at the whole fake identity idea but the singles were undeniably catchy and became hits in 1964-65 later covered by Bow Wow Wow, The Count Bishops, Fleshtones, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Bauhaus and David Bowie. The singles were successful enough to justify taking a version of the band on the road which it turned out the three Strange Bros, having only been studio players did not enjoy. So they simply hired various session musicians and sent them out on the road as The Strangeloves with nobody noticing. In 1965 they recruited a local Ohio band called Ricky Z & The Raiders led by a young singer guitarist named Rick Derringer to act as the Strangeloves. The Derringer version were so good that FGG brought him into the studio and had him sing over the backing tracks for what was supposed to be the next Strangeloves single, "Hang On Sloopy" giving the band the name The McCoys. "Sloopy" became a hit and the McCoys had followup hits including a version of "Cara-Lyn". Derringer would later go on to a solo career in the seventies. FGG would team up with their old clients The Angels for a one off hit single "Out In The Sun" billed as Beach Nuts. There would be another attempt to create a fake group during the Bubblegum era under the unwieldy moniker The Rock & Roll Double Bubble Trading Card Company Of Philadelphia 19141 which barely made the charts. FGG then roke up for various solo production projects with various members working with The Fleshtones, Blondie, Richard Hell, Robert Gordon, Marshal Crenshaw, Eric Burdon and The Circle Jerks.


7. The Archies;
After his creation The Monkees turned into a Frankenstein's monster Don Kirshner learned his lesson. His next band would not only be hand-made, they would be hand-drawn. After the indignity of being forced out by his no longer docile Monkees Kirshner hit upon the idea of taking the characters from the long running comic who already had a band in the strip and bringing them to life. Sort of. The Archies became an animated Saturday morning TV series with actual songs written and produced by professional pop tunesmith Jeff Barry and played by established and anonymous session musicians fronted by experienced session singer Ron Dante. This formula resulted in the massive hit "Sugar Sugar" which you have to admit is pretty damn catchy. There were even a few followups and a couple of albums. In fact the "band" were so successful that Kirshner decided to push things by putting Dante on stage with a band for a few shows. In another year the novelty had worn off however and the Archies faded fast. "Sugar Sugar" was still classic enough to be the only song covered by both Wilson Picket and The Germs. The Archies' legacy would lead to hits from toon "bands" like Josie & The Pussycats and Pebbles & Bam Bam.


8. 1910 Fruitgum Factory, The Ohio Express and The Shadows Of Knight;
At the same time Kirshner was thinking up the Monkees a pair of producers in L.A. were thinking of putting together their own pre-fab group. Jeff Katz and Jerry Kasenetz were managers of a series of garage bands including The Rare Breed who had a hit with "Beg Borrow And Steal" which ripped off the riff from "Louie Louie" and a transplanted Canadian garage band called The Palace Guard who had scored a minor local hit single but were then unable to find a hit in the follow ups which included a cover of a Monkees tune. After this failure K&K (as they called themselves) decided that rather than take the time and effort to groom an actual band they would simply create one once they had a likely hit song. Accordingly the assembled a group of little known session guys to record an Archies sound-alike called "Yummy Yummy Yummy" and dubbed them The 1910 Fruitgum Company. This single was so successful that it would coin the term "Bubblegum" for a genre of absurdly simple and relentlessly upbeat yet admittedly catchy pop singles. Once the Fruitgum Company was played out on the charts K&K simply moved on under a different name, such as The Ohio Express (who are not to be confused with The Ohio Players, a 1970's funk band), using most of the same musicians. At one point they recruited singer from the excellent Chicago blues/garage band The Shadows Of Knight who had just broken up and hired a group of session guys to record a single "Shake" which was released under the group's name. It was successful enough to lead this version of the Shadows to record a full album and tour before giving up the ghost. K&K would score other hits into the K-Tell era of the 1970's under a ever changing set of names.


9. The Chocolate Watchband;
The Watchband were actually a real band who had slugged it out in the San Francisco garage scene with an energetic live show. Unfortunately after getting signed by Uptown Records things get complicated to a Byzantine degree. After recording part of a first album the record company decided to rush the release and got producer Ed Cobb (who had previously sung in the Four Preps and produced The Piltdown Men and The Standells) to add on songs with vocals done by inhouse songwriter and session singer Don Bennett. In spite of the fact that new singer Bennett was black and sounded noticeably different than original white guy singer Dave Aguillar. The album was fleshed out with instrumentals done by an anonymous session band meaning that only four of the album's tracks actually featured the full Watchband. Although now considered a classic of 60's Garage the resulting album "No Way Out" also suffered from lack of promotion and distribution and was not a hit so the already unhappy band then broke up. However at this point the band had a new label, Tower Records who were not ready to give up the ghost and a second album "The Inner Mystique" was released made up of outtakes left over from the first album. This sort of thing was not uncommon (example; The Buffalo Springfield's third album) however Cobb went even further when he decided that there wasn't enough material for a full album and so blithely took several tracks from completely different groups, The Yo-Yoz and The Inmates, who had demoed for the label, and simply added them to the album listing those tracks as Watchband tracks. With eye catching pop-art album covers these albums sold well enough for the band's management to convince a couple members of the band (minus Aguillar) to reform and record a third album. This time the resulting album was actually the reformed group with the addiction of Moby Grape guitarist Jerry Miller who dropped by incognito as he was still under contract to CBS and played lead on the album. This album "One Step Beyond" was not a success and the Watchband broke up for good. This time the label let them stay that way.


10. The Electric Prunes;
Another classic 60's garage band, The Electric Prunes were also a real band at first but once signed by Reprise Records they were handed over to songwriters Annette Tucker and Nancy Mantz who wrote two hit singles "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" and "Get Me To The World On Time", both classic 60's nuggets. The resulting first album sold well but the followup did not and the band called it quits in 1967. So far nothing too unusual here. However producer David Axelrod took over and released the third album "Mass In F Major" of early prog-rock under the Electric Prunes name in spite of the fact that few if any of the band members were left and the albums sounded nothing like the Prunes. The bulk of the playing on the album was done by Canadian band The Collectors fleshed out by session men. A fourth album of more prog-rock entitled "Release Of An Oath" followed with various members of The Collectors and yet another band, Climax. These albums were judged to be screamingly pretentious embarrassments by all concerned. Amazingly by 1969 the label was still not ready to give up and reformed the band yet again with a completely new lineup and released a fourth album titled "Good Old Rock And Roll". As title suggested this was an attempt to get away from the failures of the previous two albums (which weren't real Prunes albums either remember) and get back to basics. The album stiffed of course and this time they gave up for good in 1970. The Collectors would later reform as Chilliwack who would score numerous hits in Canada and America later in the 1970's and 80's.


11. The Velvet Underground;
Obviously the iconic Velvets were a real band, at least for the first four albums. However by the time they had wrapped up the fourth album "Loaded" the band had disintegrated. John Cale had been forced out after the second album and replaced with Doug Yule. Before heading into the studio to record "Loaded" drummer Maureen Tucker was gone after getting pregnant. By the end of the session Lou Reed had given up in frustration and quit. Manager Steve Sesnick was not willing to give up quite so easily and reformed the band around the pliable Doug Yule, his drummer brother Billy and guitarist Sterling Morrison to tour the album. Morrison soon quit as well but the Velvets still went into the studio with zero original members and released a third album, "Squeeze" which sank like a stone and that was that.



12. Fleetwood Mac;
No group has ever had a more traumatic and confusing life than Fleetwood Mac. The original late sixties version was led by Peter Green and was a respected blues/rock band in Britain. The band was fleshed out with rhythm section Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (after whom the band was named) and singer/guitarist Jeremy Spencer, later a third guitarist Danny Kirwin was added. After four solid albums and some classic singles things got strange. First band leader Peter Green gobbled handfulls of acid while on tour and began hallucinating that he was a biblical prophet. He began growing his hair and beard long and wearing flowing robes and a large crucifix and vowing t o donate the band's profits to charity. He soon left. Singer Jeremy Spencer the band's other front man, then stepped in and a fifth album was recorded. He was unhappy with the pressure of being band leader though and had a nervous breakdown after a minor earthquake while on tour in California. He subsequently fled the band and joined a religious cult where he still remains today. That left the band's third guitarist Danny Kirwin and a new recruits keyboardist Christine McVie and American singer/guitarist Bob Welch. Kirwin turned out to be just as fragile as Green and Spencer and he had a nervous breakdown while backstage and refused to go on, banging his head against the wall until it bled. He was quickly fired. When the band then decided to take some time off from their grueling tour schedule which had already cost them three members which led to a battle with their manager who insisted they get back on the road. In the flurry of lawsuits that followed manager Clifford Davis actually managed to convince Danny Kirwin back and formed a group which he sent back on the road under the name Fleetwood Mac which he claimed he owned in spite of the fact that not only were there no original members left but the band was actually named after Fleetwood and McVie. This did not last too long though and the band was able to free themselves from their manger's clutches and regain their name. Further lineup changes would lead to the mega-star 1970's version. Sadly Kirwin would end up institutionalized.


12. Boney M;
Disco was full of producers who put out records using anonymous session guys under assumed names. Since disco did not require live concerts there was no need to put a face to the records. German producer Frank Farian decided to go one better and create an actual band that could tour and promote his latest song "Do You Wanna Bump". Accordingly he recruited a trio of female backup singers and lead singer Bobby Farrell (all from the West Indies) and was probably surprised when his creation scored a series of hits in Europe and sold a jawdropping fifty million albums. That's more than the Beatles, at least at the time. They were not as successful in America but still scored a number of hits including one of the iconic hits of the disco era with the silly but addictive "Rasputin". Like Kirshner he would later see his puppets take on a life of their own as they decided (wrongly) that they could score hits without their puppet master. By the mid 1980's there were more lawsuits than hits as no less than three different Boney M's were on tour. Farian would later decide that he would need a band who clearly had no talent at all and would therefore not get ideas above their station. And that's when he came up with Milli Vanilli but let's not dwell on that.


13. The Village People;
After carefully watching Frank Florian's adventures French disco producer Jacques Morali decided he to bypass Europe with an expressly American version to promote his vision of populist gay disco songs like "Macho Man". Accordingly he recruited a group of mostly gay (except for the lead singer Victor Willis) club dancers and dressed them up as various gay archetypes naming them after the gay area, The Village. "Macho Man" was a massive hit as was it's followups "YMCA", "Go West" and "In The Navy". The latter so much so that the U.S. Navy actually used it in recruitment ads. Amazingly the public at large (not to mention the Navy) had completely missed all the gay subtexts, although they really weren't all that subtle. Eventually people caught on and there was an outraged backlash from Conservative America that stalled their career. Making a hugely expensive and terrible movie was the last straw and the group collapsed after lead singer Victor Willis quit after revealing that he was the only band member who was actually singing in their live shows while the rest got to lip-synch.

14. The Sex Pistols;
Everybody knows by now that Malcom McLaren put this band together. Even if he wildly exaggerates his contribution, and he most certainly did, there's no denying the original vision was his. The original version was a legendarily bad trio called "The Strand" and then "The Swankers" with Steve Jones on vocals & bass, Paul Cook on drums and Wally Nightingale on guitar. Then McLaren signed on as manager. He was a wildly ambitious aspiring impresario who had briefly managed the New York Dolls (with notable lack of success) along with a clothing store modestly called "Sex" where The Swankers hanged out. McLaren fired the bespectacled Nighingale for being too ugly, moved the hoarse, husky voiced Jones to guitar, brought in Glen Matlock on bass and changed the name to The Sex Pistols. Now to find a singer. He started with music critic Nick Kent, who had the look and charisma but also had a serious drug habit and soon quit before even playing a gig. Then he recruited ambitious Scottish singer Mudge Ure who quickly decided he didn't like taking orders from McLaren and departed, later to join Ultravox. Then at his wit's end McLaren stumbled on to Johnny Lydon hanging out as his shop and the rest was infamy. McLaren soon lost control of Lydon and the band through his head-games, ego, greed, short attention span and indecisiveness and he would have no particular impact on the band's music or stage show but he did contribute much to the band's look as well as the distinctive DaDa graphic art of their record covers and posters.


15. The Runaways;
Kim Fowley was the Los Angeles version of Malcom McLaren, a would-be Svengali who was at the same time too clever and too stupid for his own good. McLaren, being educated and English, had all sorts of art and politics pretensions while Fowley was only interested in two things (besides money); sex and rock n' roll. Accordingly he decided he what he needed was a band of hot young girls playing glam rock. Which he quickly got once he stumbled on to first Joan Jett and Sandy West then Lita Ford, Miki Steele and then Cherie Currie who he molded into The Runaways. Bassist Steele was soon fired for being a couple of years older than the rest of the band, she later joined The Bangles. Once again the results are well known. And again, like McLaren, Fowley's contribution is controversial. He claims a much larger role in the look and sound of the band than they do. The "Runaways" movie has Fowley writing their first hit "Cherry Bomb" on the spur of the moment while Joan Jett claims that she wrote it with early songwriting partner Kari Krome. Cherie Currie's book agrees with Jett and the song is indeed credited to Jett and Krome. From what has been seen of Joan Jett and Lita Ford both in the band and solo it seems that their musical tastes were pretty much set before Fowley got ahold of them, ditto for Jett and Currie's basic glam-punk look. At any rate like McLaren Fowley's manipulative and controlling nature, egotism and greed would break up the band. Jett would go on to bigger solo hits as would Ford to a lesser extent. As for Fowley; he was never able to find a follow up and was reduced to cashing in with albums of outtakes and demos.


16. Siouxsie & The Banshees;
Siouxsie and her then boyfriend Steve Severin were part of the Bromley Contingent; a group of flashy London punk scenesters that included Billy Idol, Tony James (future Gen X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik) and Steve Strange (future Visage singer) in Punk's 1976 summer of hate. Inevitably she decided she wanted to graduate to the stage herself and so cobbled together a band that included Severin on bass, another scenester, Sid Vicious on drums and Marco Pironi on guitar. Marco was the only actual one in the band with any actual musical experience, however limited, so after a few weeks of desultory practices they scored a gig and went on stage with a fifteen minute jam on "The Lord's Prayer" (a hit version if which had actually made the charts sung by Sister Janet Mead, an actual nun) which tossed in fragments of various other songs that they knew parts of. By all accounts they were dreadful but Siouxsie had obvious charisma so when she approached Malcom McLaren's assistant Nils Stevenson to manage the band. Stevenson set about assembling a band around Siouxsie. Severin was kept on bass but Marco was out as looking too old and chunky for the Banshees (he later joined Adam Ant's band after McLaren poached the Ants to put together Bow Wow Wow) while Sid Vicious quit to form his own band but ended up in the Sex Pistols. After going through a few drummers and guitarists (plus a violinist in an ill-advised Velvet Underground phase) they ended up with John McKay on guitar and Kenny Morris on drums. The new Banshees recorded two successful albums and several singles before McKay and Morris stormed out in a dispute with Siouxsie and Stevenson in 1978. They were eventually replaced by Slits drummer Budgie and former Magazine guitarist John McGeogh for three more classic albums until Stevenson quit for obscure reasons in 1982 with McGeogh being abruptly fired shortly afterwards after collapsing with exhaustion. The Banshees soldiered on for a few more albums but it just wasn't the same.


17. Bow Wow Wow;
Malcom McLaren found himself with nothing to do after the Sex Pistols imploded. He tried to put a band together behind Chrisy Hynde; an American who had come to England looking to become a singer and was then working at Malcolm store. But she proved resistant to his tacky and exploitative ideas of marketing her as some sort of bondage hooker and went off to form her own band with the Pretenders. So when Adam Ant paid him a thousand pounds to become his manager Malcolm was game. Ant had been scuffing around for a couple years with his Ants, who included former Banshees guitarist Marco Pironi, playing a ramshackle fusion of glam/punk/surf and spaghetti-western music. Malcolm helped bring focus to the Ants visually and as a concept. But then Malcolm couldn't leave well enough alone and decided what the Ants needed was some jailbait. So he poached away the Ants rhythm section and built a new band around a young fifteen year old Burmese singer Annabella Lwin (real name Lu Win) who, unlike Chrisy Hynde, was too young and naive to have any strong views of her own. Bow Wow Wow would take the glam/surf/spaghetti-western sound of the Ants and added a spurious African tribal beat and a whole lot of energy for a unique sound. Malcolm added an image based on promoting a tribal image with jailbait sex and cheap thrills, including lyrics with obvious double entendres and album art featuring nudity in artwork taken from Manet. The media ate it up and the group had some moderate success after a hit cover version of The Strangeloves "I Want Candy" but their fire was somewhat stolen by Adam Ant of all people who (along with Marco) reformed a new Ants and ended up having more hits. As with the Pistols, Malcolm couldn't leave well enough alone and encouraged much strife in the band. At one point hiring a new singer, a flamboyant scenester calling himself Boy George to play off against Annabella. The band quickly decided enough was enough and fired Malcolm and George. Bow Wow Wow recorded one more solid album then broke up. Annabella went on to a low key solo career while Boy George went on to a notably high profile one. Without Malcolm though. McLaren gave up management and recorded a couple of surprisingly successful solo singles himself.


18. Tubeway Army;
Gary Webb was an ambitious would be singer/guitarist in the 1970's London punk scene with a serious fixation on Bowie and the John Foxx era Ultravox who desperately wanted to have a band of his own. Problem was that besides the fact that he couldn't keep one together he also hated performing live. No matter; after some false starts he managed to put together a band with bassist Paul Gardiner changing his own name to Gary Numan, drafting in his uncle to play drums and dubbed it The Tubeway Army. They recorded a demo that was good enough to get signed by Beggar's Banquet Records. The resulting album was credited to Tubeway Army which got some good reviews but did not exactly set the charts on fire due partly to Numan's reluctance to tour. By the time he went back into the studio the band as such no longer existed and Tubeway Army was simply a collection of session musicians which included Ultravox keyboard and fiddle player Billy Currie. Numan was by now focused on synths anyway and later dropped the Tubeway Army name altogether and went under his solo name where he would score a massive techo-pop hit with the classic "Cars". Paul Gardiner would occasionally work with Numan again until his death in 1984.


19. The Germs;
The Germs weren't formed by a manager but they were still a group assembled and pre-packaged before they had even learned how to play an instrument. In this case the Svengali was singer Darby Crash, who had worked out a whole name, image and marketing strategy while still in high-school. His plan was to form and band, name it and come up with stage names for the members, design a logo and posters, promote the band, find a few instruments, book a gig, THEN learn a few songs, then record an album. After recruiting school chum he dubbed Pat Smear on guitar, Crash decided on a female rhythm section. That ran into a few problems when one of the new recruits, one Belinda Carlisle, decided she'd rather sing, and be in a less scuzzy band, like the Go-Go's. Then drummer Donna Rhia was deemed to inept for even the Germs and was replaced, after a couple of shambolic gigs, with Don Boles. After that things pretty much went as planned with The Germs building a cult audience were signed by Slash Records and appeared in "The Decline Of Western Civilization". They also got banned from playing pretty much everywhere and an unsatisfied Crash kept tinkering with the band's look and line-up. Eventually in December 1981 they did one last gig and Crash went home and overdosed. This was apparently part of Crash's plan as well; to go out as a cult hero and cement his reputation as a rebel without a clue. Unfortunately he chose to kill himself one day before John Lennon was shot and did not get the press attention he was hoping for. In 2007 a Germs biopic named "What We Do Is Secret" was released with actor Shane West playing Crash. The Movie led to a reunion tour with the original Germs and West filling in on vocals to surprisingly good reviews.


20. The Plasmatics;
The Plasmatics were formed by manager Rod Swenson to capitalize on charismatic scenester Wendy O. Williams as the singer of an ultra-violent, Clockwork Orange version of Bow Wow Wow. If Malcom McLaren gave his pervy jailbait imagery some artsy pretensions and political slogans, then Swenson went straight for the camp gutter with a topless Wendy covered in shaving cream, sawing guitars with a chainsaw, taking a sledgehammer to TV sets and once blowing up a car onstage while guitarist Richie Stotts cavorted around in a tutu, studs and a mohawk. Stotts was a well known scenester recruited to give the band some street cred while the rest of the band were jobbers dressed up in punk gear, while bassist Jen Beauvoir had a serious R&B background having played with Gary US Bonds and Doo-Wop group The Flamingos since his teens. Some punk journalists considered them a bad joke but they were so over-the-top that most punks didn't really mind. They recorded a few albums and got piles of press but did not exactly set the charts on fire until they broke up. Williams went solo by recording a collaboration with Motorhead on a version of "Stand By Your Man" that caused Motorhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clark to quit. After that she did an album of generic metal that sank without a trace. Eventually she retired and became an animal rights activist. Sadly she killed herself in 1998. Mohawked black bassist Jean Beauvoir would record a couple of unsuccessful solo albums as well.


21. The Bluebells;
A mid-1980's Scottish band from the era of acoustic Celtic groups like Aztec Camera, The Waterboys, The Alarm and The Hothouse Flowers; The Bluebells were the brainchild of Robert Hodgens, a writer for a music magazine who had held a contest for band demos the winner of which would win possible record deal. Hodgens submitted a demo under the name of Bobby Bluebell and was perhaps a little surprised to win. He had to quickly form an actual band to take advantage of the opportunity. The Bluebells would score a few hits in Britain using differing lineups for the rest of the decade.


21. Sigue Sigue Sputnik;
By 1986 most post-punk bands, no matter how cynically conceived, would at least pretend to have some sort of political or artsy ideology. Not Sigue Sigue Sputnik, they openly and loudly advertised that they were a pre-packaged marketing tool who cared nothing for their fans or music. It was as if someone had taken all the smug boasting of Macolm McLaren, Kim Fowley, Rod Swenson, Darby Crash and Gene Simmons and said; "These guys are just too subtle". They were the brainchild of Tony James who as former bassist for Generation X had plenty of time to watch how not only McLaren and Nils Stevenson had operated but also how Gen X singer Billy Idol had left the ashes of Gen X to have a massive solo career. Accordingly James set out to create a band that would grab media attention by sheer brash salesmanship and a carefully thought out updating of the basic Adam & The Ants urban pirate-punk look for the Road Warrior/Blade Runner age. Unlike most post punk bands he would not even pay lip service to punk's political ideals, the only thing that mattered was money, attention and sex. Even the music was an after-thought. In fact the band he assembled had for the most part little musical experience (although guitarist Neal X had played with Johnny Thunders) and were recruited solely for their looks; two were the spitting image of Billy Idol while singer Martin Degville (recruited while dancing at some poncey club) looked like a combination of Boy George, The Mighty Wez from "Road Warrior" Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" and a Muppet Peacock. James himself would switch from bass to guitar since bass wasn't rock star looking enough. Like the Germs they did not even play any gigs nor did they have any songs, they simply gave out press releases in which James and Degville said various outrageous things and had endless photoshoots. Record companies who had previously passed on the likes of The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie, Adam & The Ants, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Culture Club and The Jesus And Mary Chain as being too over-the-top only to see them score hits were oddly susceptible to this blatant manipulation as was the British media. Accordingly Sigue Sigue Sputnik were signed by EMI for a large advance in spite of the fact that they had never actually played a single gig, nor did they have any real songs. Taking their advance Tony James promptly set to work hiring famed producer Georgio Morroder who took the fragmentary songs added a drum machine and drenched them in sound affects and echo and presto; a debut album. James then topped it of by selling advertising in the record grooves. Then they made a few videos of the band frolicking around London. At that point James remembered that they would have to at least go through the motions of being a band and playing live so a perfunctory tour was done. While all this scored volumes of media attention the singles actual chart action was mediocre and the followup was worse. While the singles did alright in dance clubs the music was just too jarring and noisy for the mainstream while the underground despised them. For the followup album James brought in Rick Astley's producers for a more radio friendly pop sound which sank like a stone and that was that.


22. Skid Row;
Sebastian Bach had been kicking around the Toronto glam metal scene for a couple of years singing in a band called Kid Wikkid. Everyone agreed he had star quality. He had a powerful voice, pretty-boy looks and a larger than life stage presence. In the aftermath of the massive success Guns N' Roses his manager whisked him off to Los Angeles where Atlantic Records assembled a band of local wannabes and called it Skid Row. Their first album was a hit and so was a followup but then came Nirvana and that killed off the Glam Metal scene with shocking speed. All of a sudden gritty authenticity was in vogue and Skid Row became particularly uncool. The band was dropped and Bach was fired after the usual "musical differences". They eventually broke up with various members disappearing into the void from whence they came while Bach returned home to Toronto where he would eventually play the lead role in the stage version of Phantom Of The Opera.


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