Not Just the Ticket — #33, The Dickies, February 21 1992

Dickies, the Palace

Then-current album: …none, really. Locked and Loaded, I suppose, but that was a live album.

Opening act: Green Jello, still some months away from the inevitable name change.

Back of ticket ad: Hello again KROQ. Once more.

Rather a last minute purchase for me, this one; the code indicates I didn’t pick this one up until eight days to the show. I guess I must not have been chomping at the bit, necessarily.

So, from Suzi Gardner playing through her injury one night to Leonard from the Dickies causing mock injuries by hitting security guards over the head with something Nerflike 24 hours later. Just another whirlwind couple of days in LA.

This is one of those shows where not only the memories are dim but almost everything about it is completely shrouded in some sort of mental mystery. Not sure who I went with, not sure what prompted me to go…all a bit vague. But it’s not because I didn’t like either band — as mentioned some entries back, I’d seen both of them open up for Celebrity Skin the previous year, had already long been a Dickies fan and thought Green Jello were entertaining enough in their own completely ridiculous way. That they would end up playing together seems less like an inspired pairing than an inevitability, and for all I know they already had.

It’s also appropriate that I would see the Dickies the day after L7 if only because both bands were, as mentioned yesterday, classic LA bands, thriving on, reacting against and ultimately tied to the massive entertainment industry around it. I’ve heard so many random stories about the band that I’m never entirely sure what to believe regarding them, the LA punk band that had the biggest early success — and in the UK at that — while seemingly only being a random parody group, and yet not. By this time they’d settled into that groove that seems to happen to certain bands that can essentially coast for a long while on past fumes, a self-nostalgia act by accident if not intent. Arguably any band that relies on what can be unkindly called schtick is able to do that — it’s not so much about the music as the show — but hell, James Brown had his schtick moments up to the end. Then again, James Brown also helped invent modern music as we know it, so you can coast on those fumes pretty much all you want if you’re him.

Anyway, no new album to promote, nothing per se happening beyond existing — and that’s reason enough to play, after all. The cycle of record/release/tour seems like the standard only because it became one, a maximized approach to life that still holds sway but like so much else seems to crack more with time as newer bands find other approaches, different hurdles to clear. If anything it kinda reminds me of what my friends up in Seattle in the Squirrels were doing for the longest while, playing out every so often and recording as they did and taking it from there. Whatever else the Dickies were doing around that time, they had enough hometown appeal to play a venue the size of the Palace, they aimed to put on a show, bring it all on. So however it happened or whatever went down, there I was once more seeing two bands once more, aiming above all else just to have a good night out and enjoy a lot of hopefully hilarious stage craziness.

Which it was, and a lot of it came from Green Jello. Still about half a year away from their extremely random breakthrough courtesy of “The Three Little Pigs,” they had by this time evolved their GWAR-with-less-blood theatrics to an even finer degree, and had thrown in more recent songs and productions to seize the moment as they wanted to. On that front, one song sticks out, precisely because I might well have been one of the few people at that show to have actually seen the incident it referred to.

As I remember it, watching as I was pressed up near the front of the stage (but this time on the opposite side from where I usually lurked), at one point some guy came on stage essentially looking like a clownish version of Oscar Wilde. I have to figure this was entirely intentional too, given what happened next. Anyway, this fellow was on the stockier side, not hugely obese or anything but still heavy, wearing a wig that looked a bit like some of the earlier photos of Wilde extant and some all black outfit somewhere between a unitard and a close-fitting suit. Also pretty sure he had heavy pancake makeup on too, and kept a look on his face somewhere between petulance and arrogance. I’m also pretty sure he was carrying a flower or two.

The explanation for all this became crystal clear when he swanned up to the microphone and said, “Remember…you don’t have to stay in your seats if you don’t want to!”

I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud when I heard that — it was, without question, a direct reference to the line Morrissey had said at the Pauley Pavilion show I’d seen a few months prior which resulted in the stage crush, Morrissey and the band being hustled offstage and the eventually cancelling of the show and resultant riot. All the Wilde references made perfect sense, so clearly somebody in Green Jello knew that while direct parody would have sealed the thing in everyone’s mind, going that route was that much more sly. So credit to them for that still.

The song faux Wilde ended up singing was some very Rocky Horror midtempo cabaret number called, but of course, “Sad Eyed Girlie Boy” — and to his credit, he delivered it less as Morrissey moaning and more as Meat Loaf-as-Eddie-on-downers, which seemed right. I also remember a bunch of other people, all definitely wearing black unitards as well as extended fingernails, prancing about and being deeply strange. God knows what the rest of the crowd thought, I loved the damn thing in all its ridiculousness. All that and later the Cowgod pretty much looming over me with glowing eyes and probably some dry ice fog, so hey.

The Dickies themselves put on a set that I really don’t remember at all — in fact, I remembered absolutely nothing about their set at all when I first looked at this ticket again yesterday, a complete blank. Two things did dimly reemerge from the mists though — one was guitarist Stan Lee adding his “Wagon train, head ’em out, whoa-oh!” vocals at the end of the chorus to “Wagon Train,” their tribute song to their original keyboard player Chuck Wagon. I remember Lee smiling broadly as he sang, loving the moment, and it makes me smile to think of it in turn, it just seems like a nice moment where music is fun for all there as it happens.

The second thing was the song “Curb Job” and Leonard singing the chorus while careening around the stage and beating the bouncers at the front of the stage with…something. I’d almost say it was the legendary penis puppet from “If Stewart Could Talk” but it wasn’t, more like a submarine sandwich that was, indeed, made out of Nerf-like material. Personally I would be averse to beating people, even those theoretically employed by the band or venue to keep crazed fans away, with such a thing, but I can’t say I recall them reacting much. Perhaps they even enjoyed it, which could say a lot about the places that the Dickies liked to play at.

Couldn’t tell you what else happened that night, but then again after that incident, maybe that’s not necessary…

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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.