Not Just the Ticket — #12, Celebrity Skin, Apr. 13, 1991

Celebrity Skin, Hollywood High

Then-current album: Good Clean Fun

Opening acts: the Dickies, Green Jello (before they became Green Jelly), Tiny Tim and…No Doubt?! Wait, I saw No Doubt? What the hell?

Back of ticket ad: The National…again! (And I bought this ticket on March 11, so a Super Bowl tie-in seemed slightly out of date.)

Definitely starting to settle into a pattern for how these tickets look. Variations will be few and far between for a while.

And this show, this very strange show.

I had a vague memory that there were five bands on this bill, I know that much. This show was the first fully ‘LA’ show I’d attended, in that pretty much the entire lineup was locally based and there wasn’t (or I think there wasn’t) any tour going on by the headliners. So, an actual local show, in a random but not completely out of the blue venue (local historians doubtless know more but I gather Hollywood High’s heyday as a place for shows was the late seventies/early eighties for various punk and new-wave related events).

I’d heard Celebrity Skin the previous year thanks to an initial EP that had a version of Abba’s “S.O.S.” which most of my friends who knew of it hated. I didn’t mind it, so maybe that says more about me. The rest of the EP was fairly anonymous and I never got the follow-up album but I’d heard that they were ‘a great live band’ or something, or maybe the ticket price was just right, though honestly the bigger draw for me probably was the Dickies, the original SoCal punk parody band that ended up being the real thing almost by accident thanks to the UK. Whatever one can say about their highly wayward career those original few albums and singles are pretty hilarious still, and I’d gotten into them over the previous couple of years so why not.

The only other band I remembered being on the bill was Green Jello, so when I decided to google around a bit on a whim right before typing this I found this flyer, with the news that Tiny Tim and No Doubt were the other bands. Honestly, I am completely baffled by this news, and I almost wonder is it my memory that’s wrong or is it the flyer that’s wrong.

See, I find it terribly hard to believe I would forget a Tiny Tim performance. I mean, my god, it’s Tiny Tim, what more could one say? The man took the chance that random novelty fame gave him and ran with it for years, in process proving himself to be somebody with an equal amount of crazily deep knowledge of American popular songs, all the way back to the nineteenth century, and a sense of humor that defies easy description. Plus, that voice, which might as well have inspired Antony and the Johnsons as anything else. How in the world could I forget an appearance by him?

No Doubt, well, that would have been more striking in retrospect, in fact it IS more striking in retrospect. Eric Stefani would have been in the band still, their debut for Interscope was a year off, etc. etc. Yet again, though, no memory. Part of me is wondering whether or not I simply missed both bands entirely, but the way the lineup on the flyer reads, Green Jello was at the bottom of the bill and I definitely remember them. Perhaps there was a juggling in the lineup, perhaps something else, but I’m still a bit baffled here.

Which is good, I think — I don’t think you should have to or be expected to remember everything about a show unless you’re an autodidact or something similar. So far I’ve been pretty clear in my head about opening bands but I’m about to start shifting into a period where it’s going to get a lot fuzzier, where the openers were local no-names for the most part who never went anywhere. No Doubt were one of them at the time in my head, with only vague memories of a few ads in the LA Weekly and a random mention from a friend or two over the next year to follow up with that, but until this very post I could have sworn I’d never actually seen them. Very, very strange. I don’t think I could have consciously repress the memory or anything, I’m not that vindictive (god help me, I still remember seeing Rage Against the Machine all too well…).

So what DO I remember of this show (and now I ask myself this with more of a cutting ‘hey, wake up your brain’ sense that before). The gym itself was just that, with the stage setup at one end like we were at a prom dance, not too surprising an effect. I’m pretty sure I was with my friend Steve M. from KLA among others, and at one point he noticed a stylized design on the wall — not the school logo or mascot or anything, more of a seventies/eighties line/circle combination that was rather vaguely designed for vague reasons, I’m guessing — and made a deadpan ZZ Top comment that had me laughing. You had to be there.

It was my first but not last encounter with Green Jello, and in retrospect I’m a little surprised I ended up seeing them more than I saw GWAR, though again it’s the local effect at work — they were around so I saw them a couple of times. Their own demi-fame with a sludgy version of “Three Little Pigs” was about a year and a half off but they had most of their set already worked out down to the various costumes and antics, so we got said song, with the destruction of ‘houses’ by the wolf and all, plus at least two other standards (as such): “Obey the Cowgod,” with a red-eyed bovine puppet/costume the size of Big Bird looming around onstage, and “Anarchy in Bedrock,” taking a certain Sex Pistols song of note and altering some lyrics (thus “I/wanna be/FRED FLINTSTONE”). Huge costumes of characters from the show proceeded to chase each other around the fringes of the crowd on the gym floor, and god knows what else happened. Well there was the drummer (I think?) who had a bikini top that appeared to be made from huge coconut shells or something similar. Anyway, Green Jello! I think I laughed a bit.

The Dickies, meanwhile, had no new studio album — their last had come out a couple of years beforehand — but apparently had their “Just Say Yes” single surface at some point before the show (at the very least, the T-shirts had that image on the front), and I kinda remember them playing it. Beyond that it was a show drawing on various things throughout their off-on existence, and I’d played their live disc We Aren’t the World enough times to guess what it might be like, and so it proved — merrily ridiculous. Stan Lee and Leonard played off each other just so, the rest of the guys did their part, and I definitely recall the unveiling of the arm-long penis puppet for “If Stewart Could Talk” — I can’t easily describe it beyond the obvious, but let’s just say it would have made the most bizarre Muppet ever, as well as the least family-friendly. (It was the eyes, especially.) They were going to close on “Gigantor” but the lights came up right after Stan was starting on the opening riff, Leonard made a half-plea/half-demand that at the show continue and there was a vague sense of confusion both in the audience and on the stage. Then they left, oh well.

And then Celebrity Skin. (And yes, I know their name came from the magazine, but when the Hole album came out some years later I couldn’t help but wonder if Courtney was referring to that more or to the band.) Their whole image was clearly meant to be a distressed, thrift-store take on glam metal that’s hard to describe without the word ‘wacky,’ sadly. (Then again, they might have liked it.) Given their general seventies-friendly sound, call ‘em a proto-Jellyfish, perhaps, or a less successful equivalent to same, though Jellyfish were more about groovy good times and studio perfectionism while Celebrity Skin seemed to be about costume parties and not quite making visual sense. If nothing else it was the first time I ever saw Don Bolles, who had ended up as their drummer — he looked rather natty in a grey greatcoat, a Kaiser-style spiked helmet and a huge and obviously false white mustache, so I guess I learned what it was like when Ludendorff founded rock and roll during World War I. (Somebody had to.) Everyone else I’m not too clear on but I’m pretty sure the lead guy had something sparkly on — that or silk scarves or something.

“S.O.S.” took a bow and was well-received but I couldn’t tell you anything else about what they played, I hadn’t heard the full album (I don’t think I have to this day), though there was an introduction song that had the idea of introducing themselves as part of the lyric, of course. Mostly there was giddiness and that seems appropriate as part of a hometown headlining show. The band didn’t last much longer so at least I saw them on a relative high.

Meanwhile, in that flyer link above, one of the commenters says “Do you remember the chili peppers running across in their socks?!” I don’t remember THAT either.

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